A Closer Look at the NCAA D-II Women's Lacrosse Tournament Opening Weekend

PHOTO COURTESY OF STONEHILL ATHLETICS


The NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse tournament is pretty straightforward. Four teams selected from each of the four geographical regions, with first- and second-round games hosted by the No. 1 seed in each region. The four regional winners are then re-seeded for the national semifinals May 20 in St. Charles, Missouri. The championship game is May 22.

Is it a perfect system? Probably not. The most glaring issue is that the regional format voids any chance for two teams from the same conference or the same region to reach the final four. In fact, many of the first- and second-round games feature teams playing against familiar conference rivals, in some cases for the second or even the third time. In 2021, PSAC rivals West Chester and East Stroudsburg met four times, with ESU losing the first three but winning the regional final to gain the semifinal berth.

There are eight first-round games scheduled for Friday. Winners will advance to the regional final on Sunday.

One interesting sidebar to this year’s Division II championship is that three of the teams in the bracket are making their final appearance at this level. No. 1 ranked Queens, No. 7 Stonehill and No. 12 Lindenwood have all announced their reclassification to Division I, effective July 1.

BEST FIRST ROUND MATCHUP

All eight first-round matchups hold some intrigue, but No. 2 seed Grand Valley State (18-1) against No. 3 seed Regis (19-0) in the Midwest Region jumps out. These two teams are both ranked in the top six in the most recent Nike/USA Lacrosse Top 20 and bring a combined 37-1 record into this encounter. Regis won its third straight RMAC title and joins No. 1 Queens as the only other undefeated team remaining. In addition to sweeping through its league, the Rangers’ resume includes a road win at No. 15 Tampa and a victory over No. 12 Lindenwood. Meanwhile, GVSU is riding a 16-game winning streak into its second NCAA tournament appearance. The Lakers only loss came against No. 2 UIndy in the third game of the season.

FIRST ROUND UPSET ALERT

Based strictly on their seedings, No. 3 Le Moyne over No. 2 Adelphi in the East Region would be an upset, but this is a rivalry game, so anything is possible. These longtime NE10 rivals certainly know each other well, meeting for the 29th time since 2011 and the second time in seven days. There are no surprises on either side. The Dolphins prevailed in overtime in last week’s game, winning 9-8 in the NE10 semifinals. Regardless of which team wins, it’s likely to be a close one once again.







TOP SEED WITH TOUGHEST PATH

There are no easy paths, but UIndy’s road to St. Charles might be the most challenging. The Greyhounds open against defending champion Lindenwood and must defeat the talented Lions for the third time this season to advance. These conference foes are meeting for the sixth time in the past two seasons. With a victory, UIndy then faces a potential second meeting in 2022 against Grand Valley State or a matchup against undefeated Regis. 

NO. 4 SEED THAT COULD WIN A REGIONAL

While defending champion Lindenwood in the Midwest Region is a tempting pick here, the choice we’re making is Tampa in the South Region. The Spartans played the toughest schedule among the teams in the field (.685 SOS) and did so with preparation for the postseason in mind. Tampa has already faced Queens once this year, losing a narrow 10-9 game in Charlotte on March 5. That was one of seven games the Spartans played against teams in the NCAA field. A first round win moves Tampa into a second round matchup with the winner of the Wingate-Florida Southern game. Payback could become a motivator against FSC, as the Mocs defeated Tampa twice this season.

COMING IN HOT

With two undefeated teams in the field, as well as several others that bring noteworthy winning streaks into Friday’s first round, it’s hard to pinpoint one team. On some level, all the teams are coming in hot. But we’re tagging Stonehill here because of the run the Skyhawks have had through the NE10 gauntlet over the past five weeks. The Skyhawks (17-2) have won 11 straight and captured the league’s regular season and tournament championship. Last week’s overtime victory over No. 10 Le Moyne in the NE10 championship game was Stonehill’s 10th win over a nationally ranked opponent in 2022. Led by senior All-American Emma Sullivan, the Skyhawks feature five 40-goal scorers and an offense averaging 17.3 goals/game.

DON’T BE SURPRISED IF…

There’s only one No. 1 seed left standing by the end of the weekend. The format of the Division II tournament creates a lot of matchups between teams that are very familiar with each other, thus leveling the playing field.

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