After setting a school record for wins and matching another program mark for best start, the Loyola men's lacrosse team reaped a coveted reward: the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
The 14-1 Greyhounds, who captured their first Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament crown and are ranked third in the latest Sun rankings, will meet Canisius (6-7), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion, in the first round. The game is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m. at Ridley Athletic Complex.
No. 8 Johns Hopkins (11-3) was granted the No. 2 seed and will host Stony Brook (7-9), the America East Conference champion, Sunday at 3 p.m. at Homewood Field.
No. 7 Maryland (9-5) will travel to Bethlehem, Pa., to tangle with No. 11 Lehigh (14-2). The Mountain Hawks, the Patriot League champions, were awarded the No. 7 seed and will host the Terps on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Loyola, which opened the season by winning its first 12 contests, was awarded its first seed since 2001 and its first No. 1 seed since 1999. Coach Charley Toomey, who is a member of the NCAA selection committee, recused himself from the deliberations Sunday afternoon.
"I was outside of the room for a good 40 minutes," he said during a conference call after the NCAA tournament bracket was unveiled late Sunday night. "So I know there was deliberation between us and two other teams, and quite honestly, I felt like there were — just looking at the numbers — they could've gone in a lot of different ways. But obviously, I was very excited to walk back in and know that we have an opportunity to work again tomorrow, but also know that we have an opportunity to play at home. And that has always been a goal for our locker room, to have an opportunity to come back to Ridley and to play one more time. Obviously, we've been rewarded for that."
Advancing to the NCAA tournament has been an annual tradition for the Blue Jays, who have qualified for the postseason every year since the tournament format was introduced in 1971.
Johns Hopkins' No. 2 seed is the program's highest since 2005 when that squad was the top overall seed and went on to capture its eighth of nine national championships.
"We're privileged to represent Hopkins in the NCAAs, and we're really proud that this is our 41st straight NCAA tournament," coach Dave Pietramala said. "That's the most in any sport in Division I. I think that's something that's under-publicized, and we're real proud of it. As for the No. 2 seed, it's where the committee put us. We would've accepted wherever they put us, and we would've put our noses down and went to work. So that's exactly how we're going to approach it."
The Terps earned a berth in the NCAA tournament for the 10th consecutive year, but for the third time in four seasons, they will open the first round on the road. And for the second straight campaign, Maryland's fate was determined by a loss to Colgate in the regular-season finale.
"I think it was probably pretty close," coach John Tillman said. "I think it was probably similar to last year. You schedule the way that you schedule and you hope you can win some of those games, and unfortunately, things didn't go our way."
There were a few surprises in the bracket. Massachusetts, the lone remaining unbeaten team in Division I at 15-0, was awarded the No. 6 seed. The Minutemen benefited from a strong Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), but were impacted by a strength of schedule that wasn't as strong as those of their peers.
No. 10 Penn State (9-6) was left out of the 16-team field despite a top-five strength of schedule and a head-to-head win against Notre Dame, the No. 4 seed. The Nittany Lions presumably hurt their cause by losing to Drexel in a semifinal of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament Wednesday night and having a middle-of-the-road RPI.
Penn State's spot was occupied by No. 13 Princeton, which lost to No. 19 Yale in Sunday's Ivy League tournament final. The Tigers (11-4) had a better RPI than the Nittany Lions, but a worse strength of schedule.
An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect opponent for Hopkins. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.