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By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001
Although the Florida State women's basketball team is venturing into unfamiliar territory -- its first NCAA Tournament berth in a decade -- coach Sue Semrau is stressing to her players they shouldn't feel lost.
"There's something a little bit magical about being in the NCAA Tournament when you haven't been there in your career, which is true of all of our players and the university for a very long time," she said.
"But the reason we're having a lot of firsts this year is the level of their experience and because they're so mature in what they're doing. ... When you have a mature group, it's to your advantage. It's not, "Oh, wow. We've arrived. We did what we wanted to do.' "
The No. 7-seeded Seminoles want to find more success, beginning with Friday's Midwest Region opening-round game against No. 10 Tulane in Ames, Iowa. Host and No. 2-seeded Iowa State meets No. 15 Howard in the second game.
The Green Wave, Conference USA Tournament champion for the third straight year, is appearing in its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament. Thirteen other schools can boast a streak that lengthy: Tennessee, Connecticut, Louisiana Tech, Georgia, Old Dominion, Stanford, Texas Tech, Purdue, Oregon, Stephen F. Austin, Duke, Virginia and N.C. State.
"Having been there before, their juniors and seniors, I know will be an advantage (for Tulane)," Semrau said.
Still, she said, her team's big-game regular-season experience can be an equalizer.
Five other ACC teams (Duke, N.C. State, Clemson, Maryland and Virginia) made the field. The Seminoles were 6-6 against those teams, including a breakthrough win at Duke. The Blue Devils are the top seed in the West Region. Overall, FSU is 7-9 against NCAA Tournament teams.
The Green Wave is 0-4 against NCAA teams, with losses at Texas and LSU and to visiting Southwest Missouri State and Louisville. The latter three losses, however, were by a combined 17 points.
"It's not about a new style of preparation," Semrau said. "Preparing for the ACC game in and game out is the exact kind of preparation you need to get ready for the teams that are participants in the NCAA Tournament."
RAINY DAYS ON MONDAYS: Not only did rain force cancellation of the No. 16-ranked softball team's last two tournament games in San Diego last weekend, storms forced a long return home Monday. The team's commercial flight from Atlanta to Tallahassee was diverted to Jacksonville, where it sat at the gate for about an hour before Delta announced it couldn't get to Tallahassee that night. The team rented vans and drove home. Total travel time from San Diego: More than 12 hours. Tonight's opponent, No. 17 Nebraska, also was on the Atlanta-to-Tallahassee flight and likewise had to drive to town.
AWARD WINNER: Junior right-hander Blair Varnes, who set a career high with 12 strikeouts in Saturday's 9-2 win against Virginia, was named ACC pitcher of the week. For the season, he is 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA for the Seminoles, ranked No. 18 by Collegiate Baseball.
- Brian Landman covers Florida State athletics. He can be reached at (813) 226-3347 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.