There is a certain Chesapeake tinge to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament.
Half of the eight teams still in the postseason are from the state of Maryland. Top-seeded Maryland, No. 7 seed Loyola Maryland, Towson and Navy collected wins in the first round this past weekend and are alive in their quest to get to the championship rounds in Philadelphia on Memorial Day weekend.
"It's great for our state," Terps coach John Tillman said Monday morning. "You're always rooting for the local teams. Being in the same area, you get to know those guys and you know how hard they work, and it's good for everybody locally. The fans are so passionate about lacrosse here. So it's pretty cool that it worked out that way. Certainly, it was no easy task with just so many good teams out there."
Maryland (15-2) – who throttled Quinnipiac, 13-6, on Sunday – was expected to be a quarterfinalist. And one could argue the Greyhounds (13-3) – who defeated Duke, 16-11, on Saturday – were anticipated. But the appearance of the Tigers and Midshipmen warranted as surprising developments.
Towson (16-2) upset No. 2 seed and 2015 national champion Denver, 10-9, on the strength of four goals and two assists from senior attackman Spencer Parks (St. Paul's) and 13 saves from redshirt senior goalkeeper Tyler White. Navy (11-4) knocked off No. 4 seed Yale, 13-10, thanks to two goals and four assists from senior attackman Patrick Keena and 12 stops from senior goalie John Connors.
Tigers coach Shawn Nadelen isn't shocked by the performances lodged by his team and the Midshipmen.
"It is the way the season has worked out with the Maryland teams being strong this year," he said. "That wasn't as much the case last year, and it shows the continued parity of the sport. With the teams being unseeded, I'm not sure how meaningful that is, but again it just shows the strength of those teams in the landscape of NCAA lacrosse this year."
The presence of four teams from the Old Line State in the quarterfinals is the largest since 2001 when Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland and Towson advanced to that stage of the tournament. And it's a dramatic departure from 2013, when three schools from the state failed to make it out of the first round.
"The strength of lacrosse in the state of Maryland has always been there," ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon said. "It's just been less focused upon with the emergence of programs like Notre Dame, Duke and Denver that get a ton of talent from the Midwest and the West. But New York and Maryland are always going to be special to lacrosse, no matter how the game grows and no matter where it goes."
The Atlantic Coast Conference is well-represented in the quarterfinals by No. 3 seed Notre Dame, No. 8 seed Syracuse and North Carolina. Right behind the ACC is the Patriot League, which placed Loyola and Navy in the round of eight.
"I sent a text to [Midshipmen coach Rick Sowell] wishing him well [Saturday] night and tweeted today how happy I was for he and his team to advance," Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey said. "I'm glad that the Naval Academy was rewarded for the excellent year they had in the Patriot League. Our league showed that we were very deserving of sending multiple teams to the tourney."
How many teams from the state to advance to Saturday's semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia will be determined this weekend. At most, three will make it, and Maryland has not had three schools in the semifinals since 1979 when Johns Hopkins, Maryland and Navy qualified out of an eight-team field.
While insisting that his entire focus is on Syracuse, Tillman suggested that three area programs in Philadelphia could be a significant draw.
"Whenever there are Maryland teams that are playing, I think it's good for everybody around here," he said. "It's good for our state, and people are excited. So with the games in Philadelphia, I think having some of the local teams probably wouldn't be bad for local interest and attendance and things of that nature."