The NCAA opens its ninth national lacrosse tournament today with a quarterfinal field that University of Maryland Coach Buddy Beardmore says has "the strongest eight teams that have ever been there."

Beardmore's Terps, who won the national title in 1973 and 1975, are seeded second and host seventh-seeded Syracuse at Byrd Stadium in College Park. Other first-round games have No. 8 North Carolina at top-seeded Johns Hopkins, No. 5 Cornell at No. 4 Virginia and No. 6 Massachusetts at No. 3 Navy. All games are at 4 p.m., except Navy's, which is at 3:30.

The winner of Maryland-Syracuse will play the winner of Navy-Massachusetts in a semifinal Saturday at the home field of the higher-seeded club; the winners of the other two games meet similarly Saturday. Maryland will host the national final May 26.

The Terps (7-1) suffered their only setback in a one-point loss to defending champion Hopkins in a late-season game at Maryland. Hopkins, which has won its last 17 games, also owns a five-point win over Virginia and a seven-goal triumph over Navy. Maryland beat Navy and Virginia plus North Carolina. The Mids edged Virginia by three and got the nod over Syracuse, 18-11.

Maryland's senior defenseman Wilson Phipps will miss today's game because of a contusion in his right thigh gotten in the Penn State game 11 days ago.

Syracuse (10-4,) which has not beaten Maryland since 1927 and last faced the Terps in 1960, is led in goals (35) and assists (47) by junior attack Tim O'Hara. Senior Kevin Donahue has 23 goals and 20 assists.

Navy has depended on a couple of guys named Mike for offense. Junior attackman Mike Buzzell, a secondteam All-America last year, has 36 goals, three more than senior Mike Hannan.