The San Diego State Men's Soccer team is hosting the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Thursday in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament.
This is the Aztecs' first NCAA bid since 2006. San Diego State has showcased a tremendous campaign this year posting a 9-4-5 overall record while finishing third in the Pac-12 race. They’re being acknowledged for their work as they are ranked 19th in the latest NSCAA Coaches Poll and 15th by Soccer America.
Head Coach Lev Kirshner knows how hard his squad has worked and is not surprised they’ve been mentioned along with some of the best teams in the nation.
“I think the biggest thing to that point without looking ahead is the preparation that (gives) us to the opportunity of getting deep into the tournament,” Kirshner said.
“We are playing the best competition the country provides. We have beaten them; we have tied them. We are ready for whatever comes across the lines. We have confidence that we are capable of finding success against anybody we play. This group is resilient. They’re tough. They’re defensive. Our trademark has been outstanding.”
The Aztecs hold a league-leading 11 shutouts during the 2016 season and have allowed the third-fewest goals through 18 games in program history with 12. Even with all the success they’ve had this year, the team wants to go all the way.
Kirshner touched on their journey saying, “It’s been a long delay. We’ve had a number of teams that have sat on the bubble looking in and just weren’t fortunate enough to get that selection at that time. But you look at us now, and it’s a no-brainer. We’ve accomplished quite a bit during the year. The team mentality and buying into what we’ve always coached here has been phenomenal.”
Kirshner also gave credit to the more seasoned players on the team for stepping up when they were needed.
“The leadership of our senior core has really brought along the youth that is a very talented and humble group. In the end, we’re not satisfied with just getting a bid. We’re here to make a run and very excited for the community that we’re hosting our first NCAA game since 1989.”
The squad is obviously focused, but the excitement of hosting an NCAA tournament game is not lost on them.
“This is such a great game for the community. We have a great soccer community here and to be able to have this match on the (Sports) Deck is phenomenal,” said Kirshner. “On the back side, these guys absolutely deserved it. What they’ve done and accomplished this year to get ourselves in this position. We weren’t sure if we would get (to) host. We knew we would get in, but it was well-earned and well-deserved.”
The winner of tonight’s game will face off against the University of Denver on Sunday, November 20th.