Two-time defending national champion Maryland rolled to the No. 1 spot in the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament field Sunday night, fresh off a Big Ten Conference championship and its 19th win in as many games.
When the 26-team field was announced Sunday night, Towson (15-3), the Colonial Athletic Association champion, and Loyola Maryland (14-5), the Patriot League winner, were in as automatic qualifiers after winning their conference titles. Johns Hopkins (10-7), an at-large selection, made it as an independent, a year before joining the Big Ten.
The Blue Jays, who gave Maryland one of its toughest games this season before falling, 10-8, are in the Terps' bracket. They will play Virginia on Friday night in College Park, with the winner advancing to play Maryland on Sunday.
"Hopkins gave us a really good game, and Virginia is always a tough team," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "This is a little bit different at first, because last year, we had a matchup with a team we didn't play during the regular season [Massachusetts]. Maryland-Virginia has a lot of history, and Maryland-Hopkins was a really good game. We'll watch Friday's game and take whichever opponent comes from there."
The No. 1 Terps continue a storied NCAA history. The 13-time national champions made the field for the 27th consecutive year, a run that started five years before Reese arrived at Maryland as a player.
The Terps have won 12 NCAA titles since 1986 and also won the national championship in 1981, the year before the NCAA took over the women's tournament. They've also been to seven straight national semifinals and five of the past six finals.
Maryland, aiming for the fifth undefeated season in program history, has 12 wins over teams in the tournament. The Terps won their first Big Ten tournament championship, 12-9, over Northwestern to earn the league's automatic qualifier Sunday.
Towson gets an unexpected chance to host the first two rounds in its bracket because seventh-seeded Pennsylvania has a facilities conflict and cannot host. The Tigers will play Old Dominion in the first round Friday, with the winner taking on the Quakers or Wagner on Sunday.
"It's incredible. We're thrilled, we're excited and we're going to make the most of our opportunities," Towson coach Sonia LaMonica said.
Loyola is headed to North Carolina to play Duke on Friday in a meeting of programs with 19 NCAA tournament appearances each. The winner plays the Tar Heels, the 2013 champion and last year's national runner-up.
The bracket includes eight seeded teams, which host the first two rounds (Syracuse also has a facilities conflict, so Boston College will take over hosting duties). The Eagles will play Stony Brook in Friday's first round, with the winner advancing to play Syracuse on Sunday, also in Boston.
Florida (18-1), whose only loss was to Maryland, is seeded No. 2, followed by No. 3 North Carolina (16-2), No. 4 Syracuse (17-5), No. 5 Southern California (19-0), No. 6 Notre Dame (13-6), No. 7 Penn (13-4) and No. 8 Cornell (13-4).
USC will be the first California team to host, drawing the tournament farther west than it ever has been.
The other automatic qualifiers: North Carolina (Atlantic Coast Conference), Massachusetts (Atlantic 10 Conference), Old Dominion (Atlantic Sun Conference), Stony Brook (America East Conference), Florida (Big East Conference), Winthrop (Big South Conference), Cornell (Ivy League); Canisius (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), Wagner (Northeast Conference) and USC (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation).
Old Dominion and Wagner are in the tournament for the first time.
The other at-large bids: Princeton, Stanford, James Madison, Northwestern, Louisville and Penn State.
The semifinals and championship May 27 and 29 return, for a second year, to Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) in Chester, Pa.