Not many people expected to see the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team end up as a national seed this year after losing a productive senior class, including a first round MLS draft pick. However, the Hokies were able to have success and gain an NCAA Tournament berth for the third straight year. They were even able to earn the No. 12 overall seed in the tournament and a first round bye.
“After graduating a very talented ten-man class last year, there were a lot of question marks,” Head Coach Mike Brizendine said. “So to be in the position that we’re in today, I’m very pleased with it.”
The Hokies will be familiar with many of the top teams in the tournament. Nine ACC teams were selected to the tournament, and the conference owns half of the national seeds. If Virginia Tech wants to advance deep in the tournament, they will have to face many familiar foes.
“I can’t imagine seeing a team that will be more difficult than Wake Forest or UNC,” Brizendine said. “For the last few years, we have changed our philosophy in scheduling. Last year we played a top five schedule, the year before that we played a top five schedule, and this year will be top ten in hopes that we can make a run.”
This schedule helped the team to earn a national seed which places them in a much better position to succeed in the tournament. Last year, the Hokies did not gain a first round bye and were forced to go on the road to Michigan State in the second round where they lost 3-0. This year, the second round game will be played at Thompson Field in front of a home crowd. Having the home field advantage increases the likelihood the Hokies will advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in program history.
“[Earning a national seed] is important, but we have to capitalize on it and get a result,” Brizendine said. “That really sends a statement that we deserved it, that we earned it, and building confidence for next year because we’ll have big goals for next year.”
The team wasn’t sure who their opponent would be until Thursday night when Charlotte took down Georgia State after penalty kicks following a 2-2 tie. The 49ers and Hokies have some experience against each other heading into the matchup Sunday at 3pm. In 2016, the teams met twice, once in Blacksburg where the game ended in a scoreless draw, and in the second round of the NCAA Tournament where the Hokies won 3-2 on the road.
“Obviously we have history with Charlotte, so we know their system and what they do,” Brizendine said. “They present opportunities for us, and also some things that will be difficult for us.”
This is only the second time the program has been selected to three consecutive tournaments. The first streak occurring between 2005 and 2007. This is a younger Hokies team, and this streak could be just the beginning of continued success for the men’s soccer program.
“[Continuing to go back to the tournament] helps us for recruiting,” Brizendine said. “We’ll lose two players, one starter, and bring in a talented class. The future, we’re very excited about, but that is built on the consistency we’ve been able to have for the past few years.”
Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game in Blacksburg will begin at 3pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for youth.