The last time the Maryland women’s basketball team played at Virginia, forward Alyssa Thomas, whose jersey hangs in the Xfinity Center rafters, scored 27 points. But the unranked Cavaliers still upset the then-No. 6 Terps, 86-72.
That game was on Jan. 23, 2014, when Maryland was still in the ACC. Program legends Brionna Jones and guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough were both freshmen and have since graduated. No current Terp has ever faced the Cavaliers.
Maryland’s players will get a taste of the program’s former conference rivalry when they travel to Virginia on Wednesday for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Coming off their third straight victory, the Terps believe they are up to the task.
“I remember these battles and what they were like,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I know UVA was always a big-time rivalry in-conference. I still think, given the proximity, that both teams will get up for one another.”
While guard Kaila Charles and forward Stephanie Jones acknowledged the rivalry between the schools, they said they’re more concerned with the present than worried about the past.
The No. 15 Terps (5-2) are confident heading into their matchup with the Cavaliers (3-4). After losing two of their opening four games, they’re seeking their fourth straight triumph.
Over that stretch, Maryland has found ways to remedy deficiencies that hindered the team’s play in early losses to Connecticut and South Carolina.
“We definitely used our losses to our advantage and focused on things we needed to improve,” Charles said. “Those losses helped us see the areas we needed to work on and we’re just trying to get better every single day. Using that to our advantage by being aware of what we need to fix and our communication, defense, all that.”
Against Miami, Frese felt the Terps “grew up” and avoided getting rattled or nervous in a close contest. Jones said she’s seen Maryland’s energy and effort improve over its win streak, which is something the Terps took out of their early season slip-ups. That takes time with a young team nurturing players into expanded roles on the court.
“[We’ve had to learn on the fly] a little bit,” Jones said. “Just having those new experiences and being put in those situations is good for us.”
Though Maryland is excited by its adjustments and improvements through its first seven games, Frese believes there’s more room to grow against Virginia.
“The most exciting thing is, are you getting better from day to day and week to week? We are,” Frese said. “We saw a major step this past weekend in our two games. Definitely, where we were a month ago isn’t where we are today. That’s exciting in terms of the progress this team is making.”