Unexpected draw for Terps, Tigers

The Baltimore Sun

For a while yesterday, Maryland coach Cathy Reese and Towson coach Missy Doherty thought their teams might meet in the first round of the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament.

Both teams were sure to make the 16-team field, and the tournament committee uses geographical proximity when placing teams in the bracket.

But that formula wasn't enough to give the former Maryland teammates and their players a date for Sunday's first round.

Instead, the third-seeded Terrapins (17-2), who earned one of the eight at-large bids, will host Temple at 1 p.m. The Tigers (13-5), the automatic qualifier from the Colonial Athletic Association, drew fifth seed Syracuse and head to the Carrier Dome for a 3:30 p.m. game.

Maryland, which has won 10 national championships, last met Temple in the 2004 tournament opener, taking a 22-4 victory.

Towson is more familiar with Gary Gait's Syracuse squad, falling 22-5 in the Dome on March 19. In 2004, however, Towson came close to knocking off a No. 5 seed before succumbing to Georgetown, 15-14, in the first round.

"We were fairly surprised," Doherty said after her team heard last night's announcement of the tournament bracket.

"We had in mind that it would be a local team. I don't think anyone had Syracuse in our heads. I was thinking Maryland or maybe Georgetown."

Reese, however, was happy that the Terps will not have to travel much no matter how far they go in the tournament. They would host the first two rounds, and the final four is at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium during Memorial Day weekend.

Three-time defending champion Northwestern earned the No. 1 seed over Penn, which upset the Wildcats, 11-7, last week. The Wildcats, however, played a stronger schedule and have the country's best Ratings Percentage Index, which likely made the difference.

Maryland, the only team with more consecutive titles than Northwestern - seven from 1995 to 2001 - edged Virginia and Syracuse for the No. 3 seed. The Atlantic Coast Conference champion Cavaliers, who fell to Northwestern, 15-13, in last year's NCAA final, are seeded fourth.

Still, to Reese, it's hard to say which side of the draw is tougher, because several unseeded teams are capable of upsets.

"I think a lot of games this year within the bracket are too hard to guess even in the first round," Reese said. "In years past, you could give an edge to one team or other, but with this year's bracket, you don't know what's going to happen with a lot of these games. That says a lot for our sport. It's much harder to make the tournament, and every team is getting stronger."

If the Terps get by Temple, they would face Duke, which beat them, 14-13, on March 1, or sixth seed Georgetown, which Maryland beat, 14-7, three weeks ago.

In Division III, Salisbury (20-0) is the only unbeaten team in the field, announced Sunday.

The Sea Gulls, who fell to Franklin & Marshall in last season's final, go after their first national title as they host the winner of today's play-in game between St. Mary's and Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.


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