ACC's `honor' leaves women feeling hurt

Media guide is curse for five of nine on cover

February 10, 2000|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

Normally, having one's picture on the front of a media guide is a badge of honor, a sign that one's game has evolved to the point where it's recognized on a broader scale.

The nine players who grace the front and back of this year's Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball guide -- one from each team -- are to be forgiven if they see the honor a bit differently.

Five of the nine have missed significant time this season because of injury or personal issues, and one of them, Clemson's Erin Baath, is returning to action after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.

"Summer [Erb] says the people on the cover seem to be cursed. If you were on there, you seem to be marked," said North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.

The absence of the cursed quintet has thrown the ACC regular-season chase into a tizzy as the race makes the turn for the league tournament, March 3-6 at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum.

"It's unbelievable that this could all happen in one year," said Duke coach Gail Goestenkors yesterday. "For all of the players who are so good not to be with their teams, it's very sad."

The 11th-ranked Wolfpack (18-4, 9-2 in the ACC) and No. 12 Duke (18-4, 7-3) are likely to be most affected over the final third of the schedule, because their player losses are most immediate and long lasting.

N.C. State, which will play Maryland tomorrow night in College Park, lost Erb, its 6-foot-6 senior center, to a fractured foot in the last minute of its 96-76 win over North Carolina last Thursday.

Erb, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, was averaging 15.8 points a game -- fifth in the league -- and 8.4 rebounds, third in the ACC. Yow said Erb will miss the next six weeks and hopes to return for the NCAA tournament.

The Wolfpack, which won its first 14 games and moved to as high as third in the national polls, has seven freshmen and three sophomores on its roster, and Yow is concerned how her young players will adjust to not having Erb around.

"The main thing is to look at reality," said Yow. "This is where we have choices, and how we respond to it is critical. We can't possibly change greatly at this point. We have to tweak. It may be more of a change than a tweak, but we'll tell them it's a tweak."

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils, who won 15 straight before losing to State in overtime two weeks ago, are coping with the loss of 6-foot senior forward Peppi Browne (Montgomery-Blair), who tore an ACL in a blowout win over North Carolina on Jan. 27.

Browne, the league's eighth-leading scorer (13.7) and the team's best low-post defender, surprisingly returned to practice last week, though her leg was in a brace.

Goestenkors said Browne practiced at about 50 percent of her normal capacity, but her knee gave way late in the practice and stiffened the next day, with more pain than she had experienced with the actual injury.

Browne will see an orthopedic surgeon in Indianapolis this week and, while the player is hoping to return later in the season, Goestenkors said she is figuring that Browne won't play again this season.

"As a coach, I have to help our team understand that we are a good team without her [Browne]," said Goestenkors, whose Blue Devils have dropped three of their last five. "For some reason, they've lost a lot of confidence without her."

Virginia (17-6, 9-2), picked for fourth in the league in preseason media balloting, lost three of its first six games before last season's leading scorer, junior guard Erin Stovall, left the team in December for personal reasons.

But, bolstered by the scoring of 6-3 freshman Schuye LaRue (14.6) and 6-1 junior Svetlana Volnaya (14.3), the Cavaliers have been the surprise team in the ACC, and, with four of their next six games at home, appear to have the inside track to their first regular-season title in four years.

"They stay together in wins and losses and they have great chemistry," said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan. "Eventually, that's going to help us develop. It's a matter of time before we explode."

North Carolina (12-10, 4-7), the preseason media choice to win the league, has been hampered by guard Nikki Teasley's leave of absence, which cost her a month of playing time.

The reason for the leave has never been disclosed, but the Tar Heels have welcomed Teasley (St. John's at Prospect Hall) back with open arms.

The 6-foot junior came off the bench to score 24 points to guide North Carolina to a three-point overtime win Monday over Virginia, setting up the Tar Heels, who have games left against State and Duke, as the team no one wants to face.

"They've [North Carolina] got a ton of talent and they're starting to put it back together," said Goestenkors. "This is wide open, which makes it very, very exciting."

Women's ACC standings

.....................................Conference ...............................Overall

School .........................W-L ..........Pct. .....................W-L ............Pct.

N.C. State .....................9-2........ .818 .....................18-4........... .818

Virginia .........................9-2......... .818..................... 17-6........... .739

Duke .............................7-3......... .700..................... 18-4........... .818

Clemson .......................6-4.......... .600..................... 15-7........... .682

Ga. Tech .......................5-6......... .455 .....................12-9............ .571

Maryland .......................4-7......... .364..................... 13-9............ .591

N. Carolina ....................4-7......... .364 ...................12-10............ .545

Fla. State.......................2-8......... .200..................... 9-12............ .429

Wake Forest .................2-9......... .182 .....................6-16............ .273

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