Huskies draw Oakland in first round of NCAA Tourney

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Noah Silver

The NIU men’s soccer team poses with the Mid-American Conference regular season trophy after a 2-1 victory over Akron on Oct. 30. (Noah Silver | Northern Star)

Noah Silver, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — NIU men’s soccer was selected to play in the NCAA Tournament on Monday for the first time since 2011 and will host the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies 6 p.m. Thursday in the first round.

The selection comes after the Huskies secured an automatic bid into the tournament by defeating the Georgia State University Panthers 2-1 in double overtime Sunday to win the Mid- American Conference championship.

“We are delighted to have won the championship and now be in the NCAA Tournament,” head coach Ryan Swan said. “I think it is the result of all the hard work of everyone on the staff, and all the guys and the fact that they bought into everything we are trying to do here.”

NIU, who finished the season with a 14-2-2 record, will play host to the Golden Grizzlies, who finished the season 12-6-2. Oakland earned its way into the tournament by claiming the Horizon League Championship with a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland State University Vikings. 

The Huskies have a quick turnaround after their emotional win on Sunday and now must shift focus to the upcoming national tournament.

“The game comes up pretty quick so the guys are off today since we just played Sunday and all the emotions that went with that.” Swan said. “They will have a lighter session today to make sure everyone’s fit and get their legs back under them then the next thing you know, it’s the day before a game.”

The Huskies did not receive a first round bye or one of the 16 seeds despite winning the MAC championship. The West Virginia University Mountaineers, whom the Huskies defeated 2-0 in the regular season and lost in the semifinals of the MAC championship, received the 11th seed and a first round bye.

The Huskies last trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 lasted two rounds as they defeated the Western Illinois University Leathernecks 3-0 in the first round before falling to the second seeded Creighton University Blue Jays 3-0 in the round of 32.

The last time NIU faced Oakland was in 2011, when they defeated the Golden Grizzlies 2-1 in Rochester, Michigan.

“We are going through videos of Oakland now to get a look at them.” Swan said. “We know a little bit about them, so that’ll be the focus. Just get everyone healthy and get a plan together before the game.”

NIU and Oakland will play at 6 p.m. Thursday at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex. Tickets will be $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under and $5 for students from participating schools with a valid ID. 

The winner of the first round matchup will travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Sunday to face the fifth seeded University of Pittsburgh Panthers.