For Navy’s Cindy Timchal, coaching in the NCAAtournament for a 24th time is just as exciting as it was back in 1983 when she took Northwestern to its first tournament.

“It never gets old,” Timchal said. “It’s always exciting, because you're always taking a new group of young athletes and it’s exciting for them.”

Timchal is the first coach to take three different programs – Northwestern, Maryland and Navy – to the NCAA tournament. Although their program is just five years old, the Midshipmen are in the tournament for a third straight time, advancing through a play-in game after winning the Patriot League.

“It’s the reason I came to Navy,” Timchal said, “to start the women’s lacrosse program and to demonstrate every time we step on the field and represent the U.S. Naval Academythat we put forward the very best lacrosse we can. What's great with our level of succes is to know that you can be at a service academy, you can live out your dreams of an exciting career and at the same time, step out on the field against North Carolina.”

For the second time in three years, the Midshipmen head to Chapel Hill for Saturday’s opening-round game. While the Tar Heels (14-3) are ranked fifth in the Inside Lacrosse media poll and the Mids (18-2) are 18th, Navy swept the Patriot League and took a strong running start into the NCAA tournament with last weekend’s 10-9 overtime victory in the play-in game at Oregon.

Goalie Michelle Verbeeck made two key saves to preserve the 9-9 tie, and Aimee Gennaro scored the game-winner to give the Mids the automatic spot in the 16-team tournament field.

“It was a true test winning that game knowing we’d be on the road again this week,” Timchal said.

Timchal’s 24 trips to the NCAA tournament are an NCAA record and she has won eight titles, all in 16 years with Maryland including seven straight between 1995 and 2001. Her 412 career wins are more than any other college lacrosse coach – men’s or women’s.

Under Timchal’s guidance, Navy is one of seven teams to make the NCAA tournament the past three years, joining Maryland, North Carolina, Northwestern, Duke, Penn and Virginia.