The Loyola Maryland women are already in the NCAA tournament, earning an automatic berth with their Patriot League championship Sunday, but the Greyhounds could make a big impression on the selection committee with a win over the No. 2 Orange in Saturday's regular-season finale.
The No. 11 Greyhounds have been successful against Syracuse in recent years, beating the Orange en route to Big East tournament championships in 2011 and 2012. Syracuse is the highest-ranked team on Loyola's schedule this season, so a win would put an exclamation point on what is now a 12-game winning streak and perhaps boost Loyola higher in the 26-team Division I bracket to be announced Sunday night at 9 p.m.
"We have a real opportunity here," Loyola coach Jen Adams said, "an opportunity to get out and play opposition that plays a bit of a different style. And to get in there and really prepare ourselves for postseason play, I've always been a fan of 'If you want to be the best, you have to play the best,' and Syracuse is right up there. It will be a great test for Loyola at this point in our season."
With no games scheduled between Sunday's ACC final and the start of the NCAA tournament next weekend, Terps coach Cathy Reese gave her team Monday and Tuesday off and scheduled short practices for the rest of this week with another break over the weekend.
"This has been new for us over the past couple years," Reese said. "We used to play games sometimes even midweek this week or on the weekend, but at this point, it's great for us. We need a little downtime. We've been going two games a week, and after competing in the ACC tournament, where you have three games in four days against some of the top teams in the nation, we're a little banged up, we're tired. We need some time to regroup and reset."
The Terps will gather for Sunday night's selection show to see how the brackets turn out, although Reese said they're nearly impossible to predict with so much parity among the top teams this season. Still, the Terps, who will go after their 12th national championship, should get the No. 1 spot after beating No. 2 Syracuse for the second time this season, 13-7 in the ACC final.
On Monday, Reese will rev up practice again as the No. 1 Terps (19-1) hope to rebound from last season's 13-12 triple-overtime loss in the national championship to North Carolina. The Tar Heels are the only team Maryland has lost to this season, 17-15 on April 5.
In the Colonial Athletic Association it's all about the one-goal games, and two-time defending champion Towson has been on the winning side of three of them in last two tournaments. In addition, the Tigers have clinched the top-seeded spot for the tournament two of the last three years with double-overtime one-goal wins over James Madison.
When the Tigers clinched the top seed for this weekend's tournament with their 12-11 double-overtime win over the Dukes on April 13, it helped balance out an earlier 8-7 conference loss to Drexel. But the Tigers seem to live by the one-goal games in the tournament.
Last season they edged Drexel, 8-7, in the semifinal before beating Hofstra, 9-4, for their fifth CAA title in nine years. In 2012, they beat Drexel, 12-11, in the semis and nipped the Dukes, 8-7, in the final.
The Dukes are seeded second for this year's tournament, which begins Friday at William & Mary. Towson takes on Hofstra at 5 p.m., followed by the Dukes vs. Delaware. The title game is Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner earning an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Maryland's Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) won seven draws in the Terps' 13-7 ACC championship win over Syracuse to bring her season total to 101 draw controls. Maryland has recorded a Division I-best 414 points. ... Robert Morris sophomore Jessica Karwacki (Hereford) pushed the NCAA single-season draw-control record to 200, breaking her own mark of 152 from last season. … Salisbury has won 102 straight Capital Athletic Conference games and 37 straight home games. … Loyola swept through the Patriot League by an average of 9.3 goals. … Denver's JillRemenapp (Century) leads Division I with 46 assists and an average of 2.71 per game.