ASHLAND — In a matchup of budding men's soccer programs, Southern Oregon University will travel to Lawrenceville, Georgia, to face eighth-seeded Georgia Gwinnett College in this Saturday's NAIA National Championship opening round.
The game is scheduled for a 10 a.m. PST start. The 31-team, single-elimination bracket was revealed Monday morning by the national office. All 15 opening-round contests will take place Saturday at campus locations, and the winners will advance to the 16-team final site — the Seacrest Soccer Complex in Delray Beach, Florida. Keiser (Florida), the final-site host, gets an automatic bye to the second round.
As a school, Georgia Gwinnett has only been around since 2006. As an athletic department, the Grizzlies have been competing in the NAIA as an independent since 2012 and are already making their fourth national tournament appearance. They've yet to win a first-round game.
The Grizzlies have an 11-3-2 record and a roster that includes 15 foreign student-athletes, including four from England. They were defeated on Saturday by Waldorf (Iowa) in the championship match of the Association of Independent Institutions tournament, but have defeated sixth-ranked Lindsey Wilson (Kentucky) and played No. 8 Mobile (Alabama) and No. 22 Cumberland (Tennessee) to draws this season.
GGC was one of six at-large qualifiers, which were selected by the Soccer National Selection Committee, in existence for the first time this season.
SOU (14-6-1) was an automatic qualifier after winning the Cascade Conference's regular-season and tournament titles.
The CCC's other auto qualifier, Corban, drew an opening-round game at 15th-seeded Hastings (Nebraska). Rocky Mountain (Montana), which was No. 11 in last week's NAIA coaches' poll, was left out of the tournament field.
The SOU-GGC winner will play ninth-seeded Vanguard (California) or UC Merced on Nov. 27 or 28 in the second round.