Three days ago, no mystery surrounded the selection of the No. 1 seed for the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament.
Defending champion Maryland was rolling into Friday night's Big Ten Conference semifinals intent on continuing a perfect season with the tournament title. Then Ohio State upset the Terps, 11-10, bringing speculation about whether another team might steal the top spot.
In the end, the loss only slowed the Terps' advance to the top of the bracket.
The other contenders for the No. 1 seed likely helped Maryland by losing their final games going into the tournament.
At 17-1, the Terps clearly emerged ahead of second seed North Carolina (15-3), third seed Duke (14-4) and fourth seed Syracuse (14-7) after the Tar Heels lost to Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the Blue Devils lost to Johns Hopkins Sunday and Syracuse lost to Loyola Maryland Saturday.
Loyola, Johns Hopkins and Ohio State are all in the bracket and Maryland coach Cathy Reese said quite a few teams are capable of upsets when the eight seeded teams host first- and second-round games Friday and Sunday.
"I think there's a lot of really talented teams out there, and what we've seen throughout this season is it doesn't necessarily matter what you're ranked," Reese said. "Teams are coming in and competing and fighting to see who's left standing when that final whistle blows. With so many deserving teams, it makes every matchup an interesting one, for sure."
The Terps, in the national tournament for the 31st time and the 26th in a row, have a bye Friday. Massachusetts (18-1) and Jacksonville (17-2) will meet Friday in College Park and the winner will face Maryland on Sunday.
Looking a week down the road as the Terps aim for their 13th national title, No. 8 seed Northwestern and Ohio State loom as possible quarterfinal opponents May 16 or 17 in College Park.
With 26 teams in the field, eight were seeded and the top six have byes into Sunday's second round, including No. 5 seed Boston College and No. 6 seed Stony Brook. No. 7 seed Virginia and No. 8 seed Northwestern also will host, but will play first-round games Friday.
Loyola (15-4) sealed its fifth straight tournament appearance with the automatic qualifier as the Patriot League champion and is headed to Boston College. The Greyhounds will play Bryant, the Northeast Conference champion, Friday night. A win would send them into a rematch of last year's second round game, which Boston College won, 8-3.
The Greyhounds have won 14 straight games, capped by Saturday's 9-8 win at Syracuse. All of Loyola's losses in their 1-4 start were to tournament teams, including overtime losses to Johns Hopkins and James Madison. They turned the season around with a 13-12 win over Virginia, the seventh seed, on March 11 and ride into the tournament on the longest active winning streak in Division I.
Johns Hopkins (14-3) qualified as an independent, helped into the bracket by dealing Stony Brook its only loss and by upsetting Duke, 9-8, Sunday. The Blue Jays, who won 12 of their final 13 games with the only loss coming against Maryland, are in the tournament for the second straight year and the fifth time overall.
The Blue Jays will travel to Virginia for the first round, where they will meet Big Ten champion Penn State (14-4) in what appears to be the toughest first-round game. The two were part of the American Lacrosse Conference which disbanded after last season, and the Blue Jays defeated the Nittany Lions, 13-10, in their last meeting in last year's ALC tournament.
Blue Jays coach Janine Tucker said once a team gets into the NCAA tournament anybody can win, and that's been proven by the upsets in the latter part of this season.
"In the NCAA tournament, they're all tough games," Tucker said. "I firmly believe on any given day any team can win and I think we proved that [by] beating Duke [Sunday]. You feel like at this point in the season, no matter who you play, you have to bring your best game. Every game is going to tough."
In addition to Loyola and Syracuse, 11 other teams earned automatic berths as conference champions: Penn State (Big Ten), Stony Brook (America East) Princeton (Ivy), Florida (Big East), Stanford (Mountain Pacific), James Madison (Colonial), Massachusetts (Atlantic 10), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), Bryant (Northeast), Fairfield (Metro Atlantic) and Winthrop (Big South).
The Division I semifinals and title game will be held May 22 and 24 at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
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