COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Years from now, Alyssa Thomas will look back with pride at all she accomplished on a personal level at Maryland.
The 6-foot-2 senior forward has scored more points than any player in school history, man or woman. Thomas is a three-time ACC player of the year, a two-time All-American and has her name and No. 25 hanging from the arena rafters.
But none of that compares to the feeling of heading to the Final Four for the first time.
"This ranks as the best thing that's happened in my career," Thomas said Thursday, shortly before the Terrapins (28-6) left for Tennessee, where they face unbeaten Notre Dame (36-0) on Sunday night for the right to play for the NCAA women's title.
Ever since she arrived at Maryland, Thomas has been all about winning. The accolades she received for her play were secondary to helping the Terps dispatch the opposition, and that is why before this month her favorite moment was winning the ACC title in 2012.
"She's never even talked about setting records since I've known her," senior guard Katie Rutan said. "She doesn't know about records until she's told. She's not chasing those. She's chasing victories. … This moment — going to the Final Four — is what she's been chasing."
Coach Brenda Frese won the national title at Maryland in 2006 and has been striving to return. Yet, watching the gleam in her eye when she spoke about Thomas, it was apparent that Frese wanted this for Thomas as much as herself.
"I can't tell you how many times a day I pause and kind of stop in my tracks and think of Alyssa and just how fitting it is," Frese said.
Thomas averages 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists per game, all team highs. Yet she never fails to point to her teammates and will never take sole credit for a victory, not even after she scored a career-high 33 in a win over top-seeded Tennessee last week.
Now, she and the Terps are poised to go the distance.
"I wouldn't have wanted to do it with any other group," Thomas said. "Last chance. I think the team has bought into the system and wants to send the seniors out the best way possible."