The University of New Hampshire men’s soccer team’s quest for a national title will begin Thursday night.
The Wildcats, who punched their ticket to the NCAA Division I tournament by capturing the America East conference tournament, on Monday learned they will host Fairleigh Dickinson University in a first-round game at Wildcat Stadium. Game time is set for 6 p.m.
The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to a second-round contest on Sunday at No. 10 seed Virginia Tech. The Hokies received a first-round bye.
UNH is making its fourth NCAA tournament appearance, third straight under coach Marc Hubbard. Two seasons ago, the Wildcats won first- and second-round contests before being eliminated by Indiana; last year, the ’Cats were upset in their first-round game by Hubbard’s alma mater, Colgate.
This season, UNH has compiled a mark of 14-1-3 and has been nationally ranked in the Top 25 all season in the United Soccer Coaches poll, peaking at 13th on Oct. 8. The Wildcats are 18th pending new rankings that come out today.
UNH has outscored the opposition 37-7 and has posted 12 shutouts. The ’Cats’ .0371 goals-against average ranks second in the country.
On paper, New Hampshire will be the favorites against Fairleigh Dickinson (7-8-4), which was the fifth-best team in its league, the Northeast Conference, before capturing the tournament title and the NCAA’s automatic berth. In the NEC final, FDU beat Long Island University on penalty kicks.
However, the Knights, out of Teaneck, N.J., boast a proud NCAA tournament history; this is their 18th appearance.
Tickets for Thursday’s game are $8 for adults, $5 for youth 14 and under, and $2 for non-UNH students. Tickets are free for UNH students.
— NCAA Tournament matchups, Page D3