Final a long time coming for Georgia Tech

March, 3, 2012
03/03/12
5:51
PM ET
Georgia TechAP Photo/Chuck BurtonTyaunna Marshall, right, and Georgia Tech take aim at Maryland in Sunday's ACC final.

It's always kind of fun to look at these things from a where-were-they-then perspective. The last time Georgia Tech was in the final of the ACC women's tournament, current Yellow Jackets coach Machelle Joseph was finishing her senior season at Purdue as Big Ten player of the year. That was 1992.

Sunday, No. 4 seed Georgia Tech will meet No. 3 seed Maryland for the ACC title (ESPN2, 2 p.m. ET) in Greensboro, N.C. This is very familiar territory for the Terps as a program; they are playing in that program's 13th ACC title game, although it is just the third since 1993. They have a 9-3 record in the league finals; winning the most recent in 2009. The year Maryland won the national championship, 2006, it lost in the ACC final.

But the Yellow Jackets, as mentioned, haven't been this far in a long, long time. Back in 1992, the ACC had two of the best teams in the nation: Virginia and Maryland, both of which were ranked No. 1 during that season, with the Cavaliers a No. 1 seed in the ACC tourney and then the NCAA tournament.

Georgia Tech, coached at the time by Agnus Berenato, was overshadowed by the league's giants that year … until the Yellow Jackets got to the ACC tournament, which was then in Rock Hill, S.C. There, they went on a tear as the No. 7 seed, beating No. 2 seed Maryland and No. 3 Clemson, then falling to the top-seeded Cavaliers. Each of those games was decided by one point.

Had Georgia Tech been able to knock off Dawn Staley-led Virginia, the Yellow Jackets would have earned their first-ever berth into the NCAA tournament. Instead, they ended up in the WNIT -- the NCAA field was still just 48 teams then -- and ended up winning that title. Their Big Dance debut didn't come until the following year, when the Final Four was in Atlanta.

All told, Georgia Tech now has been to the NCAA tournament seven times, including the last five years in a row under Joseph, who took over the program in 2003-04. The Yellow Jackets will make it six straight NCAA appearances later this month, but might do something else they've never done: get the automatic berth.

To do so, though, they'll have to upset Maryland, a team they've already lost to twice this year: 77-74 in January at College Park, Md., and 64-56 in February in Atlanta. The Terps have looked good in their two victories in Greensboro, beating Virginia 70-58 and Wake Forest -- which took out No. 2 seed Miami on Friday -- 73-58.

Georgia Tech got this far after a nail-biter over No. 5 seed North Carolina 54-53 in the quarterfinals, then an 87-61 romp over No. 9 seed and surprise semifinalist NC State.

The Wolfpack did some of the heavy lifting for the Yellow Jackets by upsetting No. 1 seed Duke in the quarterfinals. But Georgia Tech (24-7 overall, 12-4 ACC), deserves a little good luck. Injuries, bad bounces, unfortunate placement/seeding, and some ill-timed poor performances all have prevented the Yellow Jackets from ever advancing past the NCAA tournament's second round.

Sophomore guard Tyaunna Marshall, along with center Sasha Goodlett and point guard Metra Walthour, both seniors, have been the stalwarts for Georgia Tech this year. They hope to make this the Yellow Jackets' most memorable season yet.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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