Before Sunday night's NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament brackets were announced, Maryland appeared headed for a top-four seed, but the dominoes had to fall just right for Loyola and Towson to earn their first-round home games. Navy will take to the road.
Maryland earned the third seed behind top-seeded Florida and second-seeded and defending champion Northwestern. Syracuse is the fourth seed.
Loyola is seeded sixth thanks to its Big East Conference championship victory over Syracuse and Towson gets the eighth seed thanks in part to a couple of other Maryland teams. Loyola's Big East tournament win over Notre Dame, which had been ranked No. 6 in the latest Inside Lacrosse Media poll, knocked the Irish out of the top eight seeds and Johns Hopkins' win over Penn State in the American Lacrosse Conference tournament likely knocked the Nittany Lions into the unseeded ranks as well.
Sheehan Stanwick Burch, women's lacrosse analyst for CBS College Sports, said she wasn't surprised to see Loyola vault into the top six. The Greyhounds will host Penn on Sunday.
"I thought they would be a six or seven after they won the Big East," she said. "With their strength of schedule, they did so well in the conference, but they had some tough out-of-conference losses. That win against Syracuse was decisive (13-7) and had to carry a lot of weight."
The feeling was the same at Loyola's Ridley Athletic Complex where the team watched the selection show.
"We feel pretty good about that," Loyola coach Jen Adams said of the sixth seed. "[The win over Syracuse] was a great win. Now we've got make sure we keep translating that into good lacrosse. It's not enough to have one of those good days. Now we have to keep bringing a level of consistency to the table as we continue to go forward."
Going forward could mean that Adams and one of her best friends, Maryland coach Cathy Reese, would face off for the first time in the quarterfinals. The former Terrapins teammates coached together at Maryland before Adams took the Loyola job.
The Terrapins, who have won 10 championships including the 2010 title, are in the tournament for a record 28th time and draw Massachusetts in Saturday's opening round.
Towson's first-round meeting Saturday with Penn State will bring Nittany Lions coach Missy Doherty back to Johnny Unitas Stadium, where she coached the Tigers before leaving for State College two years ago.
Navy, which won its third straight play-in game, will head to fifth-seeded North Carolina for the second time in three years. Coach Cindy Timchal's Midshipmen fell to Carolina, 18-5, in the first NCAA tournament game in school history in 2010.
Florida earned the top-seeded spot in just its third season as a varsity program thanks to its second win this season over second-seeded Northwestern, a 14-7 victory in the American Lacrosse Conference tournament championship Saturday. Northwestern won the first of its six titles in its fourth season, 2004.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has four teams in the field -- Maryland, North Carolina, No. 7-seed Duke and Virginia -- while the American Lacrosse Conference has three -- Florida, Northwestern and Penn State -- and the Big East has three -- Loyola, Syracuse and Notre Dame.
One ALC team that did not the make the field is Johns Hopkins, which was on the bubble but defeated Penn State in the conference tournament.
"With Penn State losing to Princeton and Hopkins, they were definitely one of the bubble teams too," Burch said. "I thought one of the secondary criteria, the trending of your schedule, might work to [Hopkins'] advantage, but to lose to two teams that are not in the tournament didn't help. I don't know who I would put them over, but I'm sure Hopkins and Cornell are not happy to be sitting on the sidelines."
Last year's finalists, Maryland and Northwestern, have won 15 of the past 20 championships, with Maryland taking nine and the Wildcats six. Northwestern, which edged Maryland, 8-7, in last year's title game, has won six of the last seven titles.
Since 1991, only four programs have claimed Division I women's lacrosse titles. Virginia and Princeton won three each.
Maryland and Loyola earned their berths via the automatic bids granted to their conference winners. Three other conferences received automatic bids: ALC (Florida), America East (Albany) and Ivy League (Dartmouth). In addition to Towson and Navy, Massachusetts earned its spot with a play-in-game victory.
In Division III, Salisbury (19-0) is the No.1 seed and the only team from Maryland in the 31-team field. The Sea Gulls will have a first-round bye and will play the St. John Fisher-Fredonia State winner Saturday.
This weekend's first-round games:
•Navy (18-2) at No. 5 North Carolina (14-3), noon
•Albany (12-5) at No. 1 Florida (17-2), 1 p.m.
•Massachusetts (19-1) at No. 3 Maryland (17-3), 2 p.m.
•Penn State (11-3) at No. 8 Towson (16-3), 3 p.m.
•Notre Dame (13-4) at No. 2 Northwestern (17-2), 4 p.m.
•Penn (9-7) at No. 6 Loyola (13-5), 1 p.m.
•Virginia (11-7) at No. 7 Duke (11-6), 2 p.m.
•Dartmouth (12-4) at No. 4 Syracuse (16-3), 4 p.m.
An earlier version of this article listed the wrong conference for Notre Dame. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun