Storylines from the 2016 NCAA Tournament So Far and Looking Ahead to the Third Round

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The 2016 NCAA Soccer Tournament began play last Thursday with 32 teams around the country battling it out in the First Round. The winners of those first 16 games then had to travel away to the highest seeded 16 teams for the Second Round. The First Round did not provide any real drama as the games pretty much went as expected. The Second Round however provided a few head turning results as well as some compelling storylines. Here is a full recap of the first two rounds of the 2016 NCAA Soccer Tournament and a look ahead to the Third Round.

Storylines from the 2016 NCAA Tournament So Far and Looking Ahead to the Third Round

Goals, Goals and More Goals

College soccer is known for usually having low-scoring affairs and grind out games. Surprisingly, this has not been the case through the first week of NCAA tournament games. The First Round produced 34 goals, with a normal average of just over two a game. Offenses thrived in the Second Round, with a whopping 80 goals total in 16 games, compiling an insane average of five goals per game.

One particular game that caught the eye was the Second Round matchup between Big East regular season champion Providence and #1 seed Maryland. The Terrapins came into the game undefeated with an 18-0-2 record, powered by their high-octane offense and leading goal scorer Gordon Wild. The Terps started on the front foot and scored within five minutes with the aforementioned Wild bagging his 17th goal of the season. Providence standout Julian Gressel equalized five minutes later before Amar Sejdic scored twice on either side of halftime to put Maryland ahead 3-1. Sophomore forward Eryk Williamson scored his third of the season to give the Terps a three-goal edge. What happened over the next 37 minutes was nothing short of remarkable. Gressel gave Providence some hope with his second of the game in the 69th minute before Nick Sailor scored a 20-yard curler just 30 seconds later to bring the Friars within one. Five minutes later, defender Steven Kilday equalized with his first goal of the season before Joao Serrano completed the improbable comeback with a goal in the 81st minute, giving the Friars a 5-4 upset victory at the pre-tournament favorite Terrapins.

The Underdogs

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the Third Round of the tournament, only the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Cougars and the Albany Great Danes would have come as a surprise.

The Cougars (10-4-5), who made the NCAA Tournament after winning the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) needed extra time and penalties in their first two games, upsetting Big 10 power Michigan State (1-1; 9-8 on pks) as well as Big East Tournament champion and 15th-seeded Butler (0-0; 6-5 on pks). The Cougars do have an NCAA Championship to their name, winning the whole thing in 1979. Up next for the Cougars is a trip to heavily favored Wake Forest who came into the tournament as the #2 seed.

Albany marches into the Third Round off the back of the best season in program history. The Great Danes earned the 14th seed and a First Round bye after winning the America East for the first time in program history. The Danes made noise early in the year by defeating the then #3 Syracuse Orange 2-1 away at ‘Cuse. Having lost away to Boston College 5-3 earlier in the year, the Danes played with revenge on their mind, convincingly defeating BC 3-0 in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Great Danes will be looking to make some more noise as they travel to South Carolina for a Third Round matchup with #3 seed Clemson at Historic Riggs Field.

The Rest of the Field

With #1 Maryland having been knocked out, there is no clear-cut favorite team with most of the remaining field capable of going all the way. ACC powerhouses Wake Forest (#2) and Clemson (#3) will be expected to progress to the quarterfinals with Third Round games against the aforementioned SIUE Cougars and Albany Great Danes. The Demon Deacons won the ACC Tournament after defeating the Tigers 3-1 in the final. The Tigers will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s deep postseason run where they lost in the NCAA Championship final 4-0 to Jordan Morris and the Stanford Cardinal.

Despite losing Morris and Brandon Vincent to MLS, the Cardinal have done well this season and have a home matchup against the Virginia Cavaliers, winners of the tournament in 2014.

Semi-finalists last year, the Orange are in the thick of things again this season and they have an interesting all-ACC matchup in the Third Round at home versus the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Another all-ACC matchup sees the 4th-seeded Louisville Cardinals host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in what promises to be a tight affair.

After their miraculous win over Maryland in the last round, the Providence Friars will need a similar effort to take down fellow Big East foe Creighton in Omaha.

At #6, the University of Denver Pioneers have been impressive these last two years, racking up two undefeated regular seasons in a row. Having been upset by SMU last year in the NCAA Tournament, they have made it one step further this time after having beat UNLV 3-0 in the Second Round. Coming up, they play at home against the Washington Huskies and will be looking to keep their undefeated season going.

Rounding out the Third Round are the Indiana Hoosiers, who have just one loss on the season going at it against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Bloomington.