March 19, 2009

 

In 12 seasons since taking over a struggling program, Sue Semrau has continued to push Florida State to new heights.

The latest achievements for the 12th-ranked Seminoles include the best regular season and NCAA tournament seeding in school history, as well as a share of their first ACC title.

After her team played spoiler the past two seasons, Semrau now tries to lead No. 3 seed Florida State on the deepest tournament run of her tenure beginning Saturday against 14th-seeded North Carolina A&T in Duluth, Ga.

When Semrau arrived in Tallahassee in 1997, the Seminoles were coming off an 0-16 finish in the ACC. After totaling 28 wins in her first three seasons, she has led Florida State to the postseason in eight of the last nine - this is its fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance - and has a 204-159 mark with the school.

With junior post player Jacinta Moore and senior guard Tanae Davis-Cain, the Seminoles (25-7) finished a program-best 12-2 in the ACC to tie Maryland for the conference's regular-season title, and Semrau was named the ACC coach of the year for a third time.

Moore, the school's career leader with 219 blocks, led Florida State with 13.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game to earn second team All-ACC honors. Davis-Cain, a Dawson, Ga., native, averaged 13.0 points and was a third team selection along with fellow senior guard Mara Freshour (10.8 ppg).

The Seminoles' only two seniors have helped the program to 87 victories over their four seasons and will try to extend its six-game winning streak in the NCAA tournament's first round, dating back to 1991. Last season, Florida State upset sixth-seeded Ohio State before falling by a point in overtime to Oklahoma State.

The only time the Seminoles advanced past the second round came in 2007, when as a No. 10 seed they beat second-seeded Stanford to reach the regional semifinals, losing to LSU.

"Everybody except our freshmen have been in an NCAA tournament situation, so we feel really confident with that," Freshour said. "I think we're definitely right there. I think we have every skill that we need (to make a run). If we go out and play the way we know how to play, we'll be there."

Florida State was 16-3 following an 83-71 loss to top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 21 but was blown out 75-57 by Duke in the ACC tournament semifinals.

Like the Seminoles, North Carolina A&T (26-6) set a school record for wins and earned the highest seed in school history - the best ever for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team.

Behind conference tournament MVP Amber Bland's 18 points, the Aggies earned their first NCAA berth in 15 years with a 76-54 win over Hampton after suffering a two-point loss in last season's MEAC final.

"A 14th seed just shows the kind of respect these young ladies have earned over the last two seasons," said coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs, who also led Grambling and Hampton to the NCAA tournament. "We are excited, but we are not just happy to be there. We're going to come ready to play."

Bibbs' team is 20-1 since a Jan. 5 upset of Atlantic 10 tournament champion Charlotte and enters Saturday on an eight-game win streak.

Conference player of the year Brittanie Taylor-James, who is averaging 19.3 points, will try to add to her single-season school record of 617 points. Bland added 15.8 points per game.

This is the first meeting between the schools. The winner will face sixth-seeded Arizona State or No. 11 seed Georgia on Monday.