Navy earned its first seeded spot in the NCAA women's Division I lacrosse tournament and Loyola's late surge was enough for an at-large bid when the selections to the newly-expanded 26-team bracket were announced Sunday night.
Defending champion Northwestern earned the No. 2 seeded with its 8-3 win over Florida in Sunday's American Lacrosse Conference championship. North Carolina took the No. 3 spot followed by No. 4 Syracuse, No. 5 Florida, No. 6 Georgetown, No. 7 Penn State and No. 8 Navy.
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"This is the first year I haven't tried to figure it out myself," Reese said with a laugh. "It's great that the NCAA allowed us to expand our field because it is widening the bracket. I told our girls in 1995 (as a Terps player), I had a bye into the final four. We had a six team bracket. We're just in a whole different place right now as a sport. For our girls to earn the No. 1 seed I think is a credit to what they've done all season and we're looking forward to some great competition ahead."
The top six seeds will host two other teams who will play a first-round game Friday with the winner advancing to play the host team Sunday. The seventh and eighth seeds will host three other teams with two games Friday and the winners meeting Sunday.
One of the teams Maryland will host is Towson, which qualified with its Colonial Athletic Association championship. The Tigers will meet Stony Brook on Friday in College Park Friday with the winner playing the Terps Sunday.
Navy coach Cindy Timchal said last week that her team should get one of the top eight seeds and Navy (18-1) was rewarded. After winning three straight play-in games, the Midshipmen go straight into the bracket for the first time and will meet Monmouth Friday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with the winner advancing to play the Duke-Princeton winner.
"Certainly with this selection committee and 26 teams, I think it's just a really exciting era for women's lacrosse," Timchal said, "and what more excitement for us at Navy to not only have the opportunity to be in the NCAAs but to host is just what we've worked hard for all these years, to say how it's our time to work hard and be ready to compete hard. This is another step for us."
Early in the season, Loyola coach Jen Adams had written off her team's chances of getting an at-large bid after they lost five of their first seven games. But the Greyhounds (10-8) bounced back to win eight of their last 11. .
Adams said there were a lot of nerves in the room as the Greyhounds awaited the selection announcement Sunday night.
"There was a lot of celebration and a lot of relief," Adams said. "We had a rough season, but I do think a lot of that can be attributed to the strength of schedule. The Big East is obviously a tough conference and to play those games late in our season was helpful, getting through to our conference tournament. The wins we did have over Notre Dame and Penn State, I think, played in our favor down the road."
This season, 13 conference winners received automatic bids to the Division I tournament up from 11 last season. In addition to Atlantic Coast Conference champion Maryland, Navy and Towson, the other automatic qualifiers were Northwestern (ALC), Syracuse (Big East), Penn (Ivy), Massachusetts (Atlantic 10), Stanford (Mountain Pacific), Monmouth (Northeast), Canisius (Metro Atlantic) and Stony Brook (America East) as well as the two newcomers: Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun) and High Point (Big South).
In Division III, Salisbury (18-0), last year's NCAA runner-up, is the only local team to make the tournament. The Sea Gulls will be aiming to dethrone Trinity, Conn. (17-0), the team that beat them last season in the title game. The final four will be May 18-19 at Stevenson University.