The regular season is over. Now, the real fun starts.
In a single-elimination tournament that will end in Baltimore, 26 teams are vying for the throne in Division I women’s lacrosse. James Madison is trying to defend its 2018 crown, while Boston College, Maryland and everyone one else is trying to steal it.
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Games get underway this week in the tournament, and there are several intriguing first round match-ups featuring high-powered offenses, ferocious defenses and the sport’s biggest stars.
We took a look at three games you absolutely can’t miss in the opening round.
May 10, 4 p.m. EST, BTN2GO — James Madison vs. Stony Brook
James Madison’s path to defending its 2018 title won’t be easy. This game, played in College Park, Maryland, pits the Dukes against the Sea Wolves, who have the third best defense and the 13th best offense in the nation, scoring 15.37 goals per-game while allowing just 7.42 goals per-game.
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This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams, both of which are coming off winning conference championships. James Madison captured the CAA crown, while Stony Brook handily won the America East title. The Dukes and Sea Wolves shared two common opponents in Towson and Penn State. Stony Brook beat Towson (14-8) and Penn State (16-11), as did James Madison, besting Penn State 11-9 and Towson 11-7.
James Madison sports a stout defense this year, ranking ninth in goals allowed per-game with 8.53, but its offense has lacked a bit, ranking 43rd in the nation with 13.26 goals per-game. The Dukes’ defense is anchored by sophomore keeper Molly Dougherty, who has a 53.6 save percentage, which is third best in the country.
Stony Brook’s offense is powered by Ally Kennedy, who is sixth in the nation in scoring with 4.21 goals per-game.
May 10, 4 p.m. EST, Broadcast TBD — Jacksonville vs. Michigan
This will be a battle of a great offense and a solid defense. Jacksonville led the nation in scoring with 18.26 goals per-game, nearly a half-goal better than second-place Northwestern. The Dolphins have a balanced attack comprised of nine players who each have at least 29 points this season. Jenny Kinsey and Hayley Ciklin lead the offense with 49 and 46 goals, respectively.
On the other end, Michigan has the 14th best defense in the nation, allowing just 9.11 goals per-game. Senior goalie Mira Shane is 13th in the nation in save percentage with a 49.2 percent mark.
The Dolphins and Wolverines shared two common opponents in UC Davis and Kent State. Jacksonville thrashed both teams, winning 19-9 and 23-4, as did Michigan, winning 17-5 and 17-2.
May 10, 7 p.m. EST, ESPN3 — Navy vs. High Point
A match-up between the Midshipmen and Panthers could be a high-scoring affair, as both teams rank in the top 11 in scoring offense in the country. High Point averages 16.63 goals per-game, while Navy points up 15.53.
The Mids didn’t win the Patriot League this year, but got into the tournament through an at-large bid. In the regular season, Navy beat ranked teams in Georgetown, Florida and Towson. High Point won the Big South, besting Winthrop 17-10 in the title game. The Panthers and Mids shared common opponents in Florida and Towson. While both sides beat Towson, High Point fell 16-15 to the Gators, while Navy won 14-13.
Navy has the nation’s leader in total points in Kelly Larkin. The junior has tallied 112 points this season through 63 goals and 49 assists. But High Point’s Abby Hormes isn’t too far behind her, ranking seventh in points with 102. High Point’s defense is anchored by junior Meredith Chapman, who is sixth in the country is caused turnovers per-game with 2.63.
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.