The men’s soccer team will end up hosting a postseason match after all.
On Monday morning, the NCAA released the Division I men’s soccer bracket, and while UCLA (10-8-1, 5-4-1 Pac-12) missed out on a national seed, the Bruins will still get to host Cal Poly (11-4-5, 5-1-4 Big West Conference) Thursday night. The winner will travel to No. 11-seed Seattle for a second-round game Sunday.
“(Cal Poly is) a very quality team and they’re gonna be hungry to come at us,” said senior midfielder Grady Howe after Monday’s selection show. “We beat them earlier in the year, so we gotta be ready for their best effort.”
UCLA defeated Cal Poly 4-1 at home in September, led by two goals from sophomore forward Seyi Adekoya.
“We’re both different teams at this stage in the season,” said head coach Jorge Salcedo. “I think Thursday night’s gonna be a great game.”
The Bruins are coming off of an upset loss at unranked San Diego State (8-8-3, 2-7-1) this past Saturday, a game in which UCLA was expected to come away with a win. However, Salcedo is happy that the team has a clean slate for Thursday night.
“The tournament is a second season,” Salcedo said. “It’s a different season.”
The same notion applies for Cal Poly as well, which will be looking to avenge its early-season loss at Drake Stadium. The Mustangs have lost only two games since their visit to UCLA.
“We’re a different team now than we were then, we’re a better team now,” Salcedo said. “They’re probably a better team now than they were then, as well. You can look at (that game) for some tendencies, and to see some of the characteristics of their individual players, but really we’re both different teams at this stage of the season.”
The Bruins will have to contain junior midfielder Chase Minter in order to succeed on Thursday. Minter leads Cal Poly in both goals and assists, with seven and six, respectively.
The NCAA Tournament is a new season, indeed; last year’s NCAA champion, Virginia, was the No. 16 seed entering the postseason. With the Bruins in similar territory on the fringe of the national seeding this year, the team will need to follow much of the same path.
“At our best, I really think we can beat anybody in the country,” Salcedo said.
Compiled by Phil Share, Bruin Sports contributor.