INDIANAPOLIS – The UIC men's soccer team will be faced with a familiar rival in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as the field was unveiled on Monday. The Flames are positioned to take on No. 13 Loyola on Thursday at the Loyola Soccer Park at 8 p.m. ET.
The winner will move on to the second round and head to Notre Dame on Sunday to compete at Alumni Stadium at 6 p.m.
"What an exciting draw for us at UIC," said head coach Sean Phillips. "We're excited to be back in the NCAA Tournament and very happy for this group of seniors, who were left on the outside looking in as freshmen in 2013. They've worked very hard to get us to this point.
"To be drawn in with Loyola is going to make it even more special. I feel Loyola could have easily been a seeded team with the year they have had, so we will be tested tremendously from that standpoint as far as playing a very high-caliber opponent. You throw in the city rivalry and the rivalry from when we were both members of the Horizon League, it's going to be an outstanding game, an outstanding environment and an experience I know our guys are looking forward to."
The Flames return to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in program history after capturing the their fourth Horizon League Championship with a 1-0 win against No. 1 seed Wright State on Saturday (Nov. 12). Oscar Rivero secured the game-winner with four minutes remaining in the match to earn the title of Tournament MVP and place on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
UIC has had storied success in the NCAA Tournament. In 2007, the Flames advanced all the way to the Elite Eight for the program's best finish. They additionally reached the Sweet 16 in both 2000 and 2008, which would serve as their last tournament appearance.
Loyola carries a 13-3-1 record this season which has earned them a No. 13 national ranking. While the Ramblers captured the Missouri Valley Conference regular season crown, they fell short in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Missouri State, 2-1 (OT).
The two teams last met prior to the 2016 season in exhibition play back in Rogers Park. Loyola was the one to come away with a 3-1 win as Abel Guzman scored the lone goal for UIC.
Thursday's match will be the first ever meeting in the NCAA Tournament for the Flames and Ramblers, while UIC holds a 16-13-2 record in the all-time series with an 8-4-1 mark in games played on the North Side.