ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The "Road to the NCAA Tournament" for the Navy women's basketball team will be Highway 50 as the Midshipmen will play Maryland at the Comcast Center in nearby College Park. The game between the No. 15 Midshipmen and the No. 2 Terrapins will be played Saturday, March 17, at 11:15 a.m. and be televised on ESPN2.
The winner of the Navy-Maryland game will face the winner of Saturday's second semifinal, No. 7 Louisville and No. 10 Michigan State, Monday.
Navy ticket information for the game will be announced Tuesday.
Navy, winners of the Patriot League Tournament, has posted an 18-13 record this season, while Maryland, the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament champion, has compiled a 24-8 record.
Saturday's game will mark the first meeting between the Mids and the Terrapins, as well as just the fourth game for Navy against an ACC member school.
Thoughts from the Navy coaches and players were not focused on where and who Navy would play as the team gathered with a contingent of its fans Monday night at Federal House restaurant in downtown Annapolis to watch the selection show.
"This is really exciting," said Navy senior team captain Erin Edwards (Hockessin, Del.) of the selection show. "There is no other way to describe it. We were really anxious and excited to find out who we would play, but it is just super exciting to see Navy pop up on the board."
Navy at its selection show party
"It is so special for an athlete to play in a championship game, win a championship, go to a selection show party and see your name up on the television," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper, "and to be playing a program as respected as Maryland adds to it. It is a great feeling and something the players will remember forever."
The Mids won their 2011 crown after ending the regular season as the top-seeded team in the league, but this year Navy entered its regular season finale against Bucknell having dropped three consecutive games. After recording a win over the Bison, Navy posted a quarterfinal round win over Colgate at home before going on the road to defeat second-seeded Lehigh. The Mids then rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to Holy Cross in the title game to tally a 57-48 win over the Crusaders and cut down the Alumni Hall nets for a second consecutive season.
"This season has been a whole lot different from last year," said Edwards. "We have a pretty young team this year and I think it was just us coming together and taking ownership of the program and having the determination to win. We had a few tough losses heading into the tournament, so it was us getting that last win (against Bucknell) and then using that momentum to go into the tournament. I think it was us just playing well and staying together."
Navy made its inaugural appearance in the NCAA Tournament last year a memorable one. The No. 14 Mids led No. 3 DePaul in the second half and the Blue Demons held just a single digit lead over Navy until there were less than four minutes remaining in the game. DePaul would go on to defeat Navy by the score of 56-43.
"Our players had a great attitude last year," said Pemper. "Again, all credit to them. They had a great mindset and there wasn't really an awe factor; there was just this humility that we have to be really good, we have to prepare, we have to get some shots to fall and do as many of the little things that we can."
"It doesn't matter at all who we play or where we play," said Edwards. "Just to be part of the NCAA Tournament is what we worked so hard for. It is about us being together in this moment and being able to go to the tournament."