In the mid-1980s, when Pat Summitt was losing sleep over her inability to push Tennessee to the top of women's college basketball, she would lie awake at night stewing about Louisiana Tech.

How can we do what they do?Who do we need to do it?

"Louisiana Tech was a team that, certainly early on, had the dominant inside play, and they had terrific speed and quickness," Summitt said Saturday. "I think their athletes certainly were better than our athletes in a lot of situations.

"And what happens, you look at them and as you go out to assess high school talent you think, `Will this player help us beat Louisiana Tech?' "

Summitt proved to be a quick study.

Building on the formula that made the Lady Techsters the most dominant program in the early years of the NCAA women's tournament, Summitt won five national titles in 11 seasons, beginning with a victory over Louisiana Tech in the 1987 championship game.

On Sunday night, Summitt will go for her sixth title - and an unprecedented third straight - and the opponent once again will be the Lady Techsters.

Only now, there is a new measuring stick in women's hoops.

"When I beat her - and we have had some success through the years - it's one of those rushes you don't get from (beating) other people," said Tech coach Leon Barmore, whose his eighth Final Four leaves him second only to Summitt's 11. "It's the high in the coaching profession that you've beaten the best."

The championship game will match two teams with similar traditions and similar styles. Tennessee (756 victories) and Tech (677) are the two winningest teams in women's history, and they also employ the same relentless full-court style predicated on speed.

The Lady Volunteers (38-0) are led by national player of the year Chamique Holdsclaw and an awesome freshman class featuring guard Semeka Randall and forward Tamika Catchings.

They harassed Arkansas into 28 turnovers and 31 percent shooting in Friday night's 86-58 win. When they beat Tech 75-61 on Nov. 21, the Lady Vols forced 20 turnovers and held the Lady Techsters to 36 percent shooting.

"Tennessee is a quick team, but we're quick, too," said Tech guard LaQuan Stallworth. "Our whole starting five can run the floor. If Tennessee can defend that, good."

While the Lady Vols have cruised through the season as a team most observers are ready to anoint as the greatest ever, the Lady Techsters (31-3) quietly have won 16 in a row and 26 of 27 since an 88-65 loss to Old Dominion on Dec. 7.

They're in the title game for the sixth time, and the performance of quicksilver guards Stallworth and Tamicha Jackson seems to give the Lady Techsters an excellent chance of handling Tennessee's trademark defensive pressure.

Tech's full-bore style is reminiscent of North Carolina, which nearly knocked off the Lady Vols in the Mideast Regional final Monday.

"We're certainly concerned about their quickness, but it's not going to influence our commitment to pressure," Summitt said. "We've been pressing and running through 38 games, and we're not going to change for No. 39."

And after listening to the hype surrounding the Lady Vols build throughout the season, Tech has the added motivation of finally getting its chance to prove there is more than one prominent women's team.

"I'm sick of hearing all this stuff about Tennessee," Amanda Wilson said. "I'm just ready to play the basketball game, do whatever, and see what happens."

While Tennessee has risen in the past decade as the most respected program in the nation, Tech is trying to regain the status it enjoyed in the 1980s.

Beginning with their championship in the first NCAA tournament in 1982 - they beat Tennessee by 25 points in the national semifinals - the Lady Techsters made it to the Final Four seven times in nine years. They won a second title in 1988, once again beating Tennessee in the national semifinals, but now are playing in only their second Final Four since 1990.

Tech came a split second from winning its third NCAA title in 1994.