A clutch of Scots saw action in the American college scene Thursday night as the 48-team NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament kicked off to determine this year’s national champions.
All 23 conference champions automatically qualify for the tournament with 25 other sides being chosen by a selection committee based on results and strength of schedule.
Former Morton striker Lewis Hawke scored Furman’s Southern Conference clinching goal in Sunday’s final against Mercer. Hawke was on target again as the Greenville, South Carolina-based school tied 1-1 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The son of Cappielow legend Warren Hawke then converted his penalty kick as Furman advanced 4-3 via a shootout.
Furman’s triumph sets up a 4,500-mile round-trip to Seattle for Sunday’s second-round meeting with Jamie Clark’s University of Washington, the tournament’s No. 14 seed.
Inverkeithing’s Michael Scott and his University of Maryland, Baltimore County side traveled to Winston-Salem in North Carolina to take on 2007 champions Wake Forest. Another penalty shootout was required after a scoreless tie. Scott converted his penalty as the Retrievers won 3-2 from the spot to set up a second-round clash at No. 4 seed Maryland, the beaten finalists in last year’s tournament.
Ex-Rangers and Scotland youth defender Jordan Wilson could have faced either Furman or Washington in the third round on Nov. 30. His Kentucky side was the runner-up in its Conference USA division, but earned a berth after finishing the regular season ranked No. 24 in the nation by college coaches. Kentucky fell 2-0 at home to Oakland to end Wilson’s season.
Sun Belt Conference champions Hartwick College looked to have a formidable task with a trip to Penn State in its first-round game. John Scott’s side took a shock lead early in the second half before Falkirk’s Jamie O’Grady picked up a second booking to reduce the Hawks to 10 men. Penn State recovered to win 2-1 with Brett Gravatt netting a superb late winner.
Bobby Clark’s Notre Dame, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, begins its title defense on Sunday by hosting Ohio State in the second round. The Buckeyes tied 1-1 with 2010 champions Akron in Columbus before eventually progressing 13-12 on a penalty shootout.
This year’s tournament concludes over the weekend of Dec. 12-14 with the final four teams contesting the semi-finals and final at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.