When the NCAA women's tournament bracket was unveiled on Sunday night, Virginia was well represented. Five of the 64 teams hail from the Old Dominion. Only Texas, with seven, has more teams in the tournament.
"When I saw the [bracket], I was like, 'wow,' " Richmond Coach Joanne Boyle said. "I think it says a lot for the coaches in this state. I think it says a lot for the conferences that we're in."
Old Dominion (22-8) of the Colonial Athletic Association and Liberty (24-6) of the Big South qualified by winning their respective conference tournaments. The Atlantic 10's Richmond (23-7) and the ACC's Virginia (20-10) and Virginia Tech (17-11) received at-large berths.
This is the second time the state has sent five teams to the tournament. Two years ago, Hampton, Liberty, Old Dominion, Virginia and Virginia Tech went. Overall, nine of the 12 Division I schools in the state have played in the tournament since it began in 1982.
"I think it shows that we're pretty strong in the state of Virginia," Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan said. "I think we've done a good job in this state of promoting women's basketball."
Women's basketball has a strong tradition in the state. Norfolk hosted the first two NCAA women's Final Fours in 1982 and 1983. Richmond hosted the Final Four in 1994. Old Dominion, which has won 14 consecutive CAA titles, won the 1985 NCAA championship. Virginia, winner of three ACC titles, went to three Final Fours from 1990 to 1992. Liberty has won nine consecutive Big South championships.
"Between Liberty and Old Dominion, that's [23 conference titles]," Virginia Tech Coach Beth Dunkenberger said. "I don't care what league you're in, that is an incredible act. They never slip up, ever. That to me is just amazing."
What is also impressive is that these teams don't shy away from competing against one another. Virginia Tech played state rivals James Madison, Old Dominion, Liberty and Virginia this season. Old Dominion played Virginia Tech, Virginia, James Madison, William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason.
Two of the teams that met earlier in the season play each other in the first round. Sixth-seeded Virginia beat 11th-seeded Old Dominion, 72-64, in Charlottesville on Dec. 10. On Saturday, they'll meet again in Minneapolis. The Monarchs lead the series, 16-12.
Twelfth-seeded Virginia Tech and 13th-seeded Liberty would meet in the second round if they both win their Sunday first-round games in College Park. The Hokies play DePaul and the Flames play Penn State in first-round games. Eleventh-seeded Richmond travels to Storrs, Conn., for its Sunday first-round game against sixth-seeded Florida State.