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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The ceiling at Thompson-Boling Arena would be crowded if the Tennessee Vols hung a banner for all their Final Four trips.
There already are six national title banners squeezed up there, and coach Pat Summitt would like to make room for another.
But as she prepares for her 16th Final Four, Summitt still believes that just making the national semifinal is a great accomplishment, no matter whether the Vols win or lose.
"I'm proud of the teams that have been there and played in championship games and just got us to the Final Four. That's no easy task," she said Thursday. "I think sometimes when you're in the role we're in, people think if you don't win a championship you've somehow failed. That's not true."
The Vols face Michigan State in the national semifinals Sunday. LSU and Baylor meet in the other game.
Tennessee won it all in 1998 but has come up empty-handed in four trips to the Final Four since, losing to Connecticut in the title or semifinal game each time.
"There's no shame to playing in a national championship game and losing to a team that has really been dominant for the last three years like a Connecticut," Summitt said. "I think you have to accept it for what it is and then try to keep getting back there. Because if you get back there enough times, hopefully you put yourself in a position to win."
EYES WIDE OPEN: For Kristin Haynie, Michigan State's All-Big Ten point guard, merely staying awake is a victory.
As an 11-year-old, Haynie's polyp-filled large intestine was removed, affecting her ability to absorb water, vitamins and minerals. She contracted mononucleosis at Michigan State and felt perpetually exhausted.
"Here was this beautiful athlete, always sleeping, napping, tired," coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
A team psychologist recommended Haynie consume 4,000 calories per day to preserve her stamina, Haynie said. She now eats four meals a day, snacking on energy bars and drinks, and she plays with a vitality that provided a triple double (13 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in the region semifinals against Vanderbilt and 20 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in the final against Stanford.
"She had to figure out her issues, how to handle her body," McCallie said. "Now she's dangerous."