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Georgia Gwinnett College men's soccer to open national tourney this weekend

Members of the Georgia Gwinnett College soccer team celebrate with the trophy after beating the Ashford Saints 3-0 on Saturday to win the American of Independent Institutions championship.

Members of the Georgia Gwinnett College soccer team celebrate with the trophy after beating the Ashford Saints 3-0 on Saturday to win the American of Independent Institutions championship.

The Georgia Gwinnett College men’s soccer team learned more about its postseason fate Monday, and it involves a trip to Daytona Beach, Fla.

The Grizzlies will face Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Tournament, which will be a rematch of the two programs. GGC, 15-4 and fresh off winning the Association of Independent Institutions championship in its first season of eligibility, played the Eagles (13-3), the final at-large selection in the 32-team field, earlier this year.

Embry-Riddle defeated GGC 2-0 back on Aug. 31 in Lawrenceville in the third game of the Grizzlies’ season. Since then, GGC has gone 13-3 and is riding a program-best, eight-game winning streak into the national tournament.

Seeds were determined by the final NAIA Men’s Soccer Modified Ratings Percentage Index, announced Sunday. The Eagles placed 11th while the Grizzlies finished 25th. In the final Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, GGC earned the No. 9 spot while the Eagles stand 13th.

“We are excited to be in the tournament and find out our matchup but we don’t want to just be happy to be there,” said Grizzlies head coach Steve DeCou. “Embry-Riddle is an excellent team and we’re looking forward to getting down to Daytona Beach and working hard to try and move on to the next round.

“It’s great opportunity, as you usually don’t get such an early chance to make amends for an earlier defeat. We feel that we’re much improved from earlier this year and we’re looking forward to the opportunity in front of us.”

Embry-Riddle was ranked 10th in last week’s coaches’ poll before falling in the Sun Conference tournament semifinals to Savannah College of Art and Design 3-1.

The Grizzlies won eight of their nine games on the road this season, claiming four victories by shutout.

The Eagles will be making their ninth all-time appearance in the tournament and first since 2011. GGC is making its first-ever appearance in the national tournament in any sport.

The winner of Saturday’s contest will advance to the national championship site in Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 2-7, along with the other 15 opening-round winners.