The field is set for the 2019 NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse tournament, and there’s a lot to talk about.
Despite suffering its first loss of the season on Sunday — falling in the Big Ten title game to Northwestern — the Maryland Terrapins are the No. 1 overall seed. Boston College, which also has just one loss this season, is the second overall seed.
Both Maryland and Boston College received at-large bids to the tournament, along with 11 other teams, while 15 teams got in via automatic qualifiers by winning their conference tournament. Play in the 28-team tournament begins on May 7 with two opening round games.
The lone newcomer in the tournament this year is Michigan, slated with No. 8 seed. The Wolverines will face the winner of the opening round match-up between Jacksonville and Mercer.
Let’s break down the field.
EARLY SEASON STARS: 7 WLAX players that got off to hot starts
Championship host Hopkins gets in
Of the 13 teams that received at-large bids, only two had as many as seven losses. They were Colorado and Johns Hopkins.
The admittance of Hopkins into the tournament is notable because the Blue Jays’ home turf — Homewood Field — is the site for tournament’s semifinals and championship. If Hopkins were to go on a Cinderella run, it could play on a big stage in front of its home fans.
While the Blue Jays lost four of their last five games, they had put together a handful of impressive wins. In the regular season, Hopkins beat Big East champ Georgetown and Patriot League champ Loyola Maryland. Of the Blue Jays’ seven losses, six of them came against teams that made the tournament field.
The long road for Johns Hopkins to potentially play for a national title in front of its home crowd begins with a trip to Florida. The Gators have the nation’s 10th best scoring offense, powered by Lindsey Ronbeck, who’s second in the country in goals per-game with 4.47.
James Madison’s road to a title defense won’t be easy
James Madison received an automatic bid to the tournament by winning the CAA tournament, but the path for the Dukes to successfully defend their 2018 national championship won’t be easy.
The Dukes will start the tournament on the road, taking on America East champ Stony Brook. While James Madison was ranked No. 9 in the latest Inside Lacrosse poll and Stony Brook was ranked No. 17, an argument can be made either way as to which side is the favorite in this matchup.
A stout defense — ranked fourth in the nation in goals allowed per-game — leads the Sea Wolves, but they also have a crafty goal-scorer too, in Ally Kennedy. She’s fifth in the nation in goals per-game, scoring an average of 4.21 times each contest. Stony Brook notched wins this year over Colorado, USC and John Hopkins, all of which made the tournament field.
And if the Dukes were to get by Stony Brook, they’d have to stay on the road to face overall No. 1 Maryland. On March 24, the Terps beat the Dukes 18-5 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
ACC looks to be the dominant conference this year
While the Big Ten got the No. 1 overall seed, it’s the ACC that has the most teams in the tournament this year with five. In addition to ACC champ North Carolina, at-large bids were awarded to Boston College, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia.
Furthermore, four of the top six seeds from this year’s tournament hail from the ACC. After Boston College at No. 2, North Carolina is third, Syracuse is fifth and Virginia is sixth. Each of the top six seeds receive first round byes.
With that many teams in the tournament, it’s likely that the 2019 champion will come from the ACC — but defending champs James Madison, powers in the Big Ten and the rest of the field will have a chance to prove the odds wrong.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.