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NCAA Tourney: Unseeded Virginia Tech, Providence aiming high

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One year after Jordan Morris helped Stanford steamroll Clemson in the College Cup Final, the Cardinal are three wins away from becoming the first repeat winner since Indiana in 2004.

The quarterfinals are set in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament, with four weekend matches deciding who heads to Houston and who goes home.

[ MORE: Yaya aiming for UCL slot ]

With respect to Stanford and Clemson, who is also still alive, we’re looking at the two unseeded teams hoping to engineer a surprising run to glory.

Providence — With longtime star Mac Steeves limited to two matches this year, senior midfielder Julian Gressel has picked up the slack. The German has 15 goals and 6 assists in 21 games, and has the Friars on the brink of a second semifinal berth in three seasons.

The Friars (15-6) get ninth-seeded UNC next, and have not blushed in the face of big names this season. Aside from the memorable frenzied comeback over Maryland in the tourney, Providence has won at Creighton and home to Xavier in addition to one-goal losses against Clemson, Georgetown, and Villanova.

Virginia Tech — After winning just one of its last six matches leading up to the tournament, the Hokies have reeled off wins over East Tennessee State, Charlotte, and Indiana. Their reward? Mighty Wake Forest.

Va Tech managed just a single member on the ACC awards, second team junior attacker Marcelo Acuna of Costa Rica. Admittedly it’s a bit surprising that its Top 15 defense, led by goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard and his .810 save percentage, didn’t get a nod. Then again, the Hokies were under .500 in conference play.

The Hokies snapped a 17-year winless streak against Wake Forest in 2014, but hasn’t won at Wake since 1982. Could Saturday be the day?

Full schedule
Providence at No. 9 North Carolina — 7 p.m. Friday
No. 5 Stanford at No. 4 Louisville — 7 p.m. Saturday

No. 6 Denver at No. 3 Clemson — 7 p.m. Friday
Virginia Tech at No. 2 Wake Forest — 5 p.m. Saturday

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NCAA men’s soccer tournament announced for Division 1

twitter.com/@MarylandMSoccer
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The bracket for the NCAA men’s soccer tournament was unveiled Monday, and Maryland is the No. 1 seed.

Thirty-two teams play first round matches for the right to play at a seeded team in the second round.

The NCAA tries to restrict travel for the first few rounds, which leads to a non-scientific bracket. There are outliers, as Colgate has to travel to UCLA and New Mexico to Portland.

[ MORE: USMNT-Costa Rica preview ]

There is no secondary postseason tournament in D1 soccer, with 48 of the 206 men’s D-1 teams off to the tournament.

Here’s how the tournament begins:

Providence/Delaware winner at (1) Maryland
Creighton/Tulsa winner at (16) Kentucky

South Florida/Florida Gulf Coast winner at (9) North Carolina
Dartmouth/St. Francis Brooklyn winner at (8) Syracuse

Cal State Northridge/Pacific winner at (5) Stanford
Vermont/Rider winner at (12) Virginia

Loyola Chicago/Illinois-Chicago winner at (13) Notre Dame
UCLA/Colgate winner at (4) Louisville

South Carolina/Mercer winner at (3) Clemson
Boston College/Fordham winner at (14) Albany

New Mexico/Portland winner at (11) Washington
San Diego State/UNLV winner at (6) Denver

Akron/Villanova winner at (7) Indiana
Virginia Tech/East Tennessee St winner at (10) Charlotte

Michigan State/SIU Edwardsville winner at (15) Butler
Coastal Carolina/Radford winner at (2) Wake Forest