It's Stanford experience vs. UNC youth

And it will need to be high to match one of the game's most meticulously prepared coaching staffs and some of the country's headiest players. This game will match two very different styles -- an athletic, explosive North Carolina team that VanDerveer called "unpredictable in a dangerous way" and a disciplined Cardinal team that ran its triangle offense with precision and efficiency and executed a great defensive scout against Penn State on Sunday.

North Carolina freshman guard Diamond DeShields, who is battling ankle and knee injuries sustained Sunday, said she watched closely as the Cardinal took Penn State's leading scorer, Maggie Lucas, out of Sunday's game, limiting her to a season-low six points. DeShields is the Tar Heels' leading scorer and she's not been easily stopped by anyone this season.

"I saw what they did to Maggie and how it affected her play," DeShields said. "But Maggie and I are two different players and I think that I will be able to make that adjustment."

Stanford's lone freshman starter is guard Lili Thompson. She has seen her teammates with their Final Four pins tacked to their Final Four backpacks, heard their Final Four stories. And she admits she badly wants some of her own.

But she and her fellow freshmen -- there are five on the Cardinal's roster -- are plenty wide-eyed.

"We were pulling up here on the bus today and we looked at each other and said 'Guys, we are in the Elite Eight,'" Thompson said. "But I do feel like we are surrounded by this experience. I think the seniors might have a difficult time articulating it, but we can see it. We know that they know it's their last chance and that they want to do something special."

Cardinal forward Mikaela Ruef, the fifth-year senior who has experienced three Final Fours in a Stanford uniform, said she took it for granted last season that her team would go back again and Stanford's loss in the Sweet 16 was a bitter pill.

"That hurt a lot because I just figured that we were definitely going back to the Final Four," Ruef said. "It was a goal of mine [this year] that we're getting back to the Final Four."

And there will be a young, hungry team standing in the way.

"North Carolina is young, but they are athletic, very talented players and though they might not have tournament experience, that isn't always necessary, as you can see with Kentucky [on the men's side]," Ruef said. "They are a dangerous team and we will be ready for them."

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