RUSTON, La. -- Loyola's first women's NCAA tournament appearance was over almost as soon as it started.
"We walked onto the court and Virginia had its band playing and all their fans were decorated in UVa colors and we were like, 'This is it,' " said senior Patty Stoffey of the Greyhounds' 72-47 loss last year in Charlottesville. "We were tight and nervous. In the first two minutes I think Virginia made like eight steals."
Loyola (20-8) is confident its second tournament trip will be lengthier and more enjoyable, starting with an East Regional first-round game against Oklahoma tonight at 7.
"Last year we had no idea what we were getting into," Loyola coach Pat Coyle said. "We were excited just getting to the tournament. I don't think we really thought we had a chance to win. This year I think they do feel like they have a chance."
There are reasons to be optimistic.
In No. 7 seed Oklahoma (21-8), Loyola faces a more evenly matched opponent, one making its first NCAA tournament appearance in nine years.
There is also the advantage of playing on a neutral court at Thomas Assembly Center. In past years, the top eight seeds in each regional were host to first-round tournament games.
Plus, the 10th-seeded Greyhounds enter the tournament emboldened by a six-game winning streak and a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championship.
"Our defense has picked up and other players have started to contribute more," said guard Coleen Colsher. "We're playing well."
Stoffey said: "We just want to keep playing and move up to the next level."
Stoffey will look up at an Oklahoma team that features 6-foot-3 center Mandy Wade alongside 6-2 forward Angi Guffy on the front line. The first substitute off the bench is 6-5 LaNae Jones.
Wade leads the Sooners with a 14.3 scoring average, followed by 5-8 forward Etta Maytubby at 13.0. Guffy and Jones each average 10 points.
"We don't have any big scorers; we don't even have an all-conference player," Oklahoma coach Burl Plunkett said. "We're very balanced and we go 10 players deep. That's what got us here."
As with most Loyola opponents, Plunkett's main concern is Stoffey, the nation's No. 8 scorer with a 23.9 average. The 5-11 senior scored 38 percent of her team's points in the MAAC tournament.
"I'm not sure you can stop her," Plunkett said. 'We'll just try to run a lot of people at her and not let her have a field day against us."
At Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.
Virginia Tech (21-8) vs. St. Joseph's (20-8), 6 p.m. Connecticut (29-0) vs. Maine (24-5), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Duke (21-8) vs. Oklahoma State (17-11), 7 p.m. Alabama (20-8) vs. Mount St. Mary's (24-5), 30 mins. after previous game.
At University Hall, Charlottesville, Va.
Florida (23-8) vs. Radford (15-14), 6 p.m. Virginia (24-4) vs. Dartmouth (16-10), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Thomas Assembly Center, Ruston, La.
Oklahoma (21-8) vs. Loyola, Md. (20-8), 7 p.m. Louisiana Tech (26-4) vs. Furman (18-11), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee (29-2) vs. Florida A&M; (24-5), 6 p.m. Old Dominion (27-5) vs. Florida International (26-4), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
Arkansas (22-6) vs. San Francisco (24-4), 9 p.m. Washington (23-8) vs. Ohio University (23-6), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Lubbock (Texas) Municipal Coliseum
Kansas (20-10) vs. Wisconsin (19-8), 7 p.m. Texas Tech (30-3) vs. Tulane (19-9), 30 mins. after previous game.
At E.A. Diddle Arena, Bowling Green, Ky.
Oregon State (20-7) vs. Tennessee State (22-6), 7 p.m. Western Kentucky (26-3) vs. Toledo (24-6), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Coors Events Center, Boulder, Colo.
Utah (23-6) vs. Southwest Missouri State (20-11), 8 p.m. Colorado (27-2) vs. Holy Cross (21-8), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Smith Center, Washington
Drake (24-5) vs. Mississippi (21-7), 6 p.m. George Washington (24-5) vs. DePaul (20-8), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Georgia Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
Oregon (18-9) vs. Louisville (24-7), 6 p.m. Georgia (24-4) vs. Indiana (19-9), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Recreation Hall, State College, Pa.
North Carolina State (19-9) vs. Marquette (19-11), 6 p.m. Penn State (25-4) vs. Jackson State (23-6), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Peterson Gym, San Diego
San Diego State (24-5) vs. Montana (25-6), 9 p.m. Purdue (21-7) vs. Portland (23-6), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Carmichael Auditorium, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Seton Hall (23-8) vs. Stephen F. Austin (22-7), 6 p.m. North Carolina (28-4) vs. Western Illinois (17-11), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Maples Pavilion, Stanford, Calif.
Southern Mississippi (21-8) vs. Southern Methodist (20-9), 9 p.m. Stanford (26-2) vs. UC Irvine (19-10), 30 mins. after previous game.
At Memorial Gym, Nashville, Tenn.
Vanderbilt (26-6) vs. Northern Illinois (17-13), 7 p.m. Memphis (21-7) vs. Southern California (18-9), 30 mins. after previous game.