The NCAA Tournament will begin exactly how the regular season began for the University of Colorado women's lacrosse team: With a demanding challenge in Florida.

On Sunday night the Buffaloes' waiting game finally ended with CU receiving its second consecutive invitation to the NCAA Tournament. CU will play Jacksonville in the opening round on Friday in Gainesville, Fla., with the winner advancing to play the host Gators from the University of Florida on Sunday.

The Buffs (13-5) opened the season with two games in Florida, including a match at the then-fifth ranked Gators on Feb. 11 that ended in a 16-9 CU defeat.

The Buffs have played Jacksonville just once, suffering a 20-13 loss on the road during the program's first season in 2014.

"We haven't played Jacksonville since our first year, but they're at team that plays in the tournament a lot," CU coach Ann Elliott said. "They're tough, they're gritty, they play hard, they're well coached. We're going to have to study up on them a lot this week starting tonight and kind of figure out what our game plan is and what to look for. We have a lot to do there."

While Elliott's fifth-year program is making its second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the Buffs still are seeking their first tournament victory after suffering a 13-7 first-round loss against UMass last year.

CU was the regular-season champ in the first year of the Pac-12 Conference's women's lacrosse league, and the Buffs will be joined in the 26-team tournament field by league foe Stanford, which defeated CU last week at Prentup Field in the inaugural Pac-12 title game.


The Buffs went 2-3 against NCAA Tournament teams this season, a ledger that includes two regular season victories against Stanford as well as road losses against Florida and the University of Denver.

Jacksonville (16-3) is coming off its second consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championship after topping Coastal Carolina in the title game. The Dolphins Ashtyn Hiron (66 goals, 25 assists) was named the league's player of the year and also won tournament MVP honors.

"Hopefully from last year we learned it's one game at a time. You can't get to the second game unless you get through the first game," Elliott said. "You've got to only focus on that and concern yourself with that. Obviously as a staff we have to be prepared for everything. I think for the players it's just focusing in on Jacksonville. That's the only game we have right now. We have to prepare them and get ready to go.

"Last year helped us, helped our mentality to know what it's like to go on the road and play at this type of level with these stakes."

Pat Rooney: or