By BEN JOHNSON
The NCAA tournament is returning to Tahlequah — this time, in soccer.
On Monday night, No. 14 Northeastern State found out it had earned a NCAA tournament berth in men’s soccer. And the double dose of good news arrived when the RiverHawks found out they would host the third round and quarterfinals of Super Region 3.
It is NSU’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2005, and it has received byes into the third round. The RiverHawks will take on Fort Hays State on either Nov. 15 or 16 at DeLoache Field.
“NSU has a great history of soccer, and it’s just fantastic to be able to have our team playing at the level where we can host our very first games in the NCAA tournament,” NSU coach Rob Czlonka said. “Our guys have played very hard, and I’m both excited and proud of them.”
Most recently, NSU hosted a NCAA tournament event in women’s basketball in 2011.
NSU’s soccer team, which is 12-4-3, completed its home slate unbeaten this year, going 5-0-1. The lone tie was against Fort Hays State, which also beat NSU, 3-2, in Hays, Kan., earlier in the year.
“Playing at home is very special. We haven’t lost a home game yet this year,” Czlonka said. “We love the fan support that we get from everybody that comes to our games, and we’re excited that we are able to play in front of them in the NCAA Tournament.”
The winner of the NSU-Fort Hays State match will face the Midwest Region champion in Tahlequah on either Nov. 17 or 18. The winner of that will reach the national semifinals in Evans, Ga.
There are four Super Regions in Division II college soccer, and Super Region 3 consists of the Central Region and the Midwest Region.
The RiverHawks are the top seed in the Central Region, and the Tigers are the only other team from that region to earn a bid into the 35-team NCAA tournament.
Five teams from the Midwest Region earned bids, and those teams will play Nov. 8-11 at top seeded Rockhurst. The teams in the Midwest Region are Drury, Notre Dame (Ohio), Saginaw Valley, Quincy and Rockhurst. The two teams left standing following those three matches will travel to Tahlequah and play either Nov. 15 or 16 for the right to play either NSU or Fort Hays State in the NCAA quarterfinals.