"Winning you over". The Theme for the 1996-97 Maryland women'sbasketball. An appropriate theme for a team that has allstarters returning and an outstanding freshmen class. The1995-96 Terrapin squad showed glimpses of great things to comefor the Maryland women's basketball program. Maryland finished13-14 and captured a 7-9 mark in the ACC, which put them insixth place. With seasoned veterans and talented newcomers,Head Coach Chris Weller looks to improve on last year's record. This talented group of young women will work hard to win youover.
Maryland went 6-4 in non-conference games last season with Lillian Purvis took home All-Tournament honors in the HawkeyeClassic and the Dial Soap Classic. After a weak conferencestart, Maryland came on strong in February to win five of thelast seven regular season games. Among those wins werevictories over No. 14 Duke and a buzzer-beater over No. 18Clemson. Kelley Gibson lit the Terrapin fire in those twocontests averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds. Gibsonnetted a personal best 28 points against Clemson and claimed ACCRookie of the Week honors twice in the last month of the season.Sonia Chase showed consistency, reigning as the ACC stealsleader throughout the season. There were three Terrapins thatwere awarded by the ACC for their performances. Kelley Gibsonwas named to the ACC All-Rookie Team while Sonia Chase andStephanie Cross were awarded with All-ACC Team HonorableMention.
For the first time in three years, half of Maryland's squadconsists of upperclassmen with two seniors and four juniors. Add in two sophomores and Maryland has an experienced squad oftalented players. The returning players have come back inexcellent shape and are ready to play. "This is probably thebest returning team in terms of conditioning that we have everhad," Weller said. "On the first day, everyone made standardsthat are not usually hit until the end of preseason, this showsthey are serious about the year." The returners are ready tobuild on last year's experiences. February was the month thatput the taste of victory in the Terrapins mouths. The Terpsended the regular season on a 5-2 run, and gained confidencewith this taste of winning.
"They started to reap some of thebenefits and enjoyment from all of the efforts they had made,and that's always fun. The Terps are ready to win and they knowthey have the ability to do so. I don't think they are cockyby any means. I think they feel good about themselves and whatthey have accomplished thus far, and what they are going toaccomplish," Coach Weller said. Weller hopes the returningplayers have the success that her other players have had overthe years. "I am hoping that this class will have the same kindsof experiences that other classes have had once they got alittle experience under their belts. Those have been prettysuccessful teams. The returning players are ready and notinclined to give up any playing time. I think it will becompetitive in every spot. There will be tremendous support atevery position this year." The returning Terps are ready toprove to themselves and everyone else that they are a force tobe reckoned with. They are excited, in shape and prepared forthe season.
Branka Bogunovic -- 6-8 -- C At 6-8, Branka is the tallestperson ever to play women's basketball at Maryland. TheBelgrade, Yugoslavia native was on her country's Junior NationalTeam, which was a perfect 12-0. Bogunovic also walked away fromthe team with MVP honors. "It's exciting to have someone thattall," Weller said. "She will have to get adjusted to the quicknature of USA basketball, but she seems to be adjusting verywell. She has a nice touch around the basket and is a goodfinisher," Coach Weller indicates. Branka will add more powerinside than the Terps have had in the recent past.
Kim McCray -- 5-8 -- G Maryland native Kim McCray helped leadOxon Hill High School to the Maryland 4A Semifinals for the pasttwo years. She averaged 20 points and 10 assists as a junior. McCray has earned All-County and All- State honors. Lastseason, she was named All-America Honorable Mention in USAToday and Street & Smith. "Kim is a player similar to SoniaChase in that she is very versatile. She has the ability toplay all three perimeter positions," Weller said. "She is aquick, intense player. I think she will be an outstandingdefensive player."
Tiffany Brown -- 5-6 -- G Tiffany Brown led Elizabeth Seton HighSchool in Clinton,Maryland to a 27-2 record while earningMaryland All-State honors for herself. Coach Weller believesthat Brown will have a signifigant impact in her freshmenyear. She will share point guard dutied with Kim Bretz. "Tiffany hastremendous passing ability and is a good three-point shooter,"Weller said. "She has a real feel for the game."
Brandi Barnes -- 6-3 -- F Barnes is the first athlete ever torecord a triple-double at Joppatowne High School and she earnedAll-State honors. She led Joppatown to two state tournaments. In addition to basketball, Brandi participated in tennis andvolleyball. "Brandi was not very well known coming out of highschool," Weller said. "She is going to be a very strong collegeplayer. She has a tremendous ability to block shots." Barnesin addition to Bogunovic will add power to Maryland's insidegame.
"The schedule is an extraordinary challenge this year because ofthe start. We are not getting a chance to ease into it," Wellersaid. The Terrapins will open the season at Penn State onNovember 22. "It's going to be a huge challenge for us to getright off on a winning note. We are going to give it our bestshot." The team will play in two tournaments this season. On Nov. 30 - Dec. 1, the Terps will play in the alwaystough Brother Holiday Tournament hosted by Rutgers. Four weeks later Marylandwill host a strong field in the Dial Soap Classic on Dec. 28- Dec. 29. In the ACC, Maryland's first meeting is againstClemson on Dec. 7. Clemson is the defending ACC Championand last year made it to the second round of the NCAAtournament. "There isn't any easy game in our conference. It'sjust part of being in the ACC." In-state rivalries are a bigpart of the Terps early season schedule. During November andDecember, Maryland will play Morgan State, Loyola and TowsonState.