Before Sunday night's announcement of the brackets for the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament, Maryland, Loyola and Navy knew they were in. As automatic qualifiers, the only question was whom they would play.
For defending national champion Maryland, which earned the automatic bid as Atlantic Coast Conference champion, the answer brings a bit of its storied tournament history back to College Park.
The Terrapins, who have made a Division I-best 27 appearances in the national tournament, will meet Navy and coach Cindy Timchal, who guided the Terps to 16 of those trips. The Midshipmen, Patriot League champs and winners of one of two play-in games, are in the tournament for a second straight year.
When the two meet at noon Saturday in College Park, it will be Timchal's first time coaching against the Terps since she left to start the Navy program five years ago.
"It's great," Timchal said of the draw. "I'm excited about going there and playing the best. I think that's what it's really about. It's a great opportunity for Navy women's lacrosse. We knew sooner or later we would be playing Maryland."
While at Maryland from 1991 to 2006, Timchal coached the Terps to eight national crowns, including four with her successor, Cathy Reese, on the roster. The two squared off as head coaches while Reese was at Denver, but this will be the first time they've met in the tournament.
The Terps were the top seed in last year's tournament for the first time in seven years — the last time they won. Their 13-11 title-game victory last May ended Northwestern's five-year reign and gave Maryland its 10th national title.
Last year, Navy fell to North Carolina, 18-5, in the first round.
For Loyola, this is the first tournament bid in seven years. The Greyhounds earned the No. 6 seed and a home game against Massachusetts, the other play-in game winner, at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Ridley Athletic Complex.
The Greyhounds, who are in the tournament for the 14th time, reached the quarterfinals in 2004, a year after making their seventh NCAA final four.
Coach Jen Adams guided the Greyhounds to their first Big East championship and an automatic bid in her third year with Loyola.
"We're really excited," Adams said. "UMass is kind of an unknown entity for us. We haven't faced them in regular season and it doesn't appear we have too many common opponents, so for us, it's going to be fun for the coaching staff to prepare the team for a team that we haven't seen yet."
This year's tournament includes three first-timers: Florida, Albany and Boston College
Florida, in only its second season as a varsity program, earned the No. 4 seed and a date with Stanford. They are in Maryland's half of the bracket.
Albany, the only unbeaten team in the field, is No. 7 but, because of graduation, will play at Dartmouth. Boston College will play at No. 2 seed Northwestern. They are in Loyola's half.
"Lots of teams are having outstanding seasons," Reese said, "and there have been lots of great games that went all the way down to the wire, so it's been a really exciting year for women's lacrosse. It's great for our sport to see it growing and to see the new faces."
Boston College brings the ACC total to five teams for the first time — along with No. 3 seed North Carolina, No. 5 seed Duke and at-large selection Virginia. The Ivy League has three — Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth — while the American Lacrosse Conference has two in Florida and Northwestern.
Half of the bracket is made up of automatic qualifiers: Maryland (ACC), Loyola (Big East), Stanford (Mountain Pacific), Albany (America East), James Madison (CAA), Princeton (Ivy) plus winners of the two play-in games, Navy and Massachusetts.
The semifinals will be held May 27 and the final May 29 at Stony Brook, on Long Island.