After losing to #1 Wake Forest (17-1-2) in the ACC tournament, Virginia Tech (9-9) found themselves sitting on the NCAA tournament bubble. The Hokies finished .500 overall and second to last in the ACC Coastal, thanks to one of the toughest schedules in the country. It was a schedule that included eight ranked opponents, thirteen teams above .500, and five conference foes in the top 10.
The question that arose on Selection Sunday was what would the selection committee value more: wins and losses, or strength of schedule?
Fortunately for the Hokies, the committee chose the latter to be the superior standard of measure, as VT was able to snatch an NCAA tournament bid.
The Hokies are one of nine ACC teams that made the NCAA Tournament, and are one of two league teams playing in the first round. As thrilling as it was on Selection Sunday, head coach Mike Brizendine and his club don’t have much time to celebrate. Their next opponent, Air Force (14-2-3), is a force to be reckoned with, both in the air and on the pitch.
The Falcons, who finished undefeated in the WAC at 8-0-2, make their money on the defensive side of the ball. Lead by Second Team All WAC GK John Wendt, Air Force has only surrendered 15 goals on the season, good for a 0.79 goals against average.
To put that into perspective, the Hokies have given up more than twice as many goals; VT has found 31 balls in the wrong end of the net this season. Some other talented players out in Colorado Springs include F Austin Dewing (23 points, 9 goals in 2016) and MF Tucker Boone (16 points, 5 goals in 2016).
However, if there’s any team that’s prepared for a formidable opponent, it's Virginia Tech. Air Force may not want to pay attention to Tech’s 9-9 record, because that record includes wins over then No.1 Notre Dame, as well as then No.14 Creighton on the road. Also, despite the 3-5 conference record, the Hokies finished the season with two All-ACC First Team players in GK Ben Lundgaard and F Marcelo Acuna. Lundgaard, who has been busy this season, has faced 128 shots and saved 97 of them. Acuna has given the Hokies no reasons to worry on offense as his 11 goals are 3rd in the ACC.
Without question, both teams have plenty of talent to offer on both sides of the ball. Thankfully for VT, the difference maker could be the site of this game: Blacksburg, VA. The Falcons have been subpar at best away from Colorado, as they are 3-2-3 in games outside of the centennial state. Meanwhile, the Hokies' win over No.1 Notre Dame took place at Thompson Field. It will be interesting to see if that regular season trend holds true in the postseason.
The game will take place on Thursday, November 16 at 7 PM, with the loser going home and the winner advancing to the next round. The 7th seeded Michigan State Spartans await the winner of this matchup, as the second round will take place on Sunday, November 19.
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