The Atlantic Coast Conference, led by overall No. 1 seed Maryland, dominated the top spots in the NCAA Division I women's championship bracket announced Sunday night, with six teams among the eight seeded spots in the 26-team field.
Also from the ACC are No. 2 Syracuse, No. 3 North Carolina, No. 6 Virginia, No. 7 Boston College and No. 8 Notre Dame. No. 4 Florida and No. 5 Northwestern, from the American Lacrosse Conference, take the other seeded spots and one of them could be on a collision course with Maryland in the national semifinals.
Johns Hopkins returns to the field for the first time since 2007, while Loyola and Towson are back in the tournament again. It is the Greyhounds' fourth straight appearance, and the third in a row for the Tigers.
The Terps, who fell to North Carollina, 13-12 in triple overtime, in last year's title game, are making their 30th appearance — and 25th straight — in the NCAA tournament. They're aiming for a 12th national title and their first since 2010.
The Terps will have a first-round bye and face the winner of Friday night's game between Penn and Canisius. Those two will square off in College Park, with the winner meeting Maryland on Sunday.
This is the second year in a row and the fourth time in the past five years that the Terps have been seeded No. 1, but to coach Cathy Reese the top seeding is about the past, not the future matchups in the tournament.
"I think this is a reflection of the success your team has had through the season," Reese said, "and for our girls, it's a reflection of how we've grown. But when you get to this point, it really doesn't matter when you're looking at competing against some really good teams. I think our whole women's lacrosse field is really good. The first- and second-round games are going to be very interesting."
With the 26-team field, the top six seeds have byes through to the second round, but they will host two other teams for a first-round match Friday and meet the winner Sunday. The seventh and eight seeds will host two games Friday, with the winners playing Sunday.
The other three other teams from the state ended up in the opposite half of the bracket from the Terps.
Johns Hopkins will head to North Carolina, where the Blue Jays will meet Georgetown in Friday's opener. The winner will face the defending champion Tar Heels.
The Blue Jays, who started the season unranked but soon soared into the Top 10 of the media and coaches' polls, likely were hoping for a seeded berth and a home game, but coach Janine Tucker said just being in the field for the first time since 2007 is plenty to be happy about. Hopkins edged the Hoyas, 11-10 in overtime, on March 21.
"We're beyond ecstatic to be back in the field," Tucker said. "This group did enough to earn that bid, and we're dialed in to Georgetown. When we played them, it was a one-goal game, but it's one of those things at this point where it's anybody's game.
Loyola, the Patriot League champion, heads to Boston College, where the Greyhounds will play Massachusetts on Friday at 2 p.m. Boston College will play Bryant, with the winners playing Sunday.
"We're just excited to be playing in postseason," Loyola coach Jen Adams said. "We obviously haven't played UMass in season. We played them in postseason in 2011, and we beat them (14-7), but I'm sure she's got a lot of different looks this season."
Towson, in its third straight trip to the NCAA tournament, will travel to Syracuse to play a familiar foe in Stony Brook. The two teams met in the first round last season, with Stony Brook taking an 8-6 victory.
That experience should help the Tigers this time around.
"We obviously came up short last year," Towson coach Sonia Lamonica said, "and we weren't happy with that loss. We thought we should have won that game, so that adds a little fuel to the fire, and we've played up there this season, so we have some familiarity with the Dome."
Thirteen teams received automatic bids to the Division I tournament.
In addition to Maryland, Loyola and Towson, Florida (ALC), Penn (Ivy), Louisville (Big East), Stony Brook (America East), Massachusetts (Atlantic 10), Denver (Mountain Pacific), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), High Point (Big South), Bryant (Northeast) and Canisius (Metro Atlantic) earned their spots with conference championships.
Most of the at-large bids were easy to figure, especially since eight of the teams ranked in the Top 10 in both the coaches' poll and the media poll did not win their conference tournaments: Syracuse, North Carolina, Boston College, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State and Duke. Although the polls don't indicate which teams will get in, it would be unusual for a Top 10 teams to miss out.
There were a few surprises, especially Virginia (10-8) getting the No. 6 seed, and perhaps less surprising, Notre Dame (9-8) at No. 8. But both were in the top five in strength of schedule, one of the top criteria considered.
The Division I semifinals and finals will be held May 23 and 25 at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
In Division III, defending champion Salisbury, coming off its 12th straight perfect Capital Athletic Conference season, will host its first-round game and is in a bracket that also includes Stevenson.
They were the only teams from Maryland to make the field.
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