The NCAA Division II men’s and women’s soccer national championships are returning to the area in a two-day event this week.
Blanchard Woods Park in Evans will play host to the two final four championships starting Thursday. The two women’s semifinal games will begin at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The men’s semifinal games begin at 5 and 8 p.m.
Championship games are Saturday. The women’s final begins at 11 a.m., and the men play at 2 p.m.
The defending women’s national champion, West Florida, headlines a strong group of women’s teams; American International, Grand Valley State and Western Washington are also competing.
Simon Fraser, a college team from Canada, is among the men’s final four that also includes Carson-Newman, Southern New Hampshire and Rockhurst.
The Peach Belt Conference and Blanchard Woods are playing host to the event for the second consecutive year. Peach Belt commissioner David Brunk said last year’s championships were a positive experience, and he expects the same this week.
“We’re really pleased by the feedback from last year’s inaugural event,” Brunk said. “(Columbia County) has done a great job in getting the field and complex ready. My staff has been working hard really the past year leading up. From our standpoint, the field looks great, the signage is up. We hope people will come out.”
Brunk said the event will be streamed online, and a link will be posted at peachbelt.com for fans of teams across the country. He said many of this year’s teams have strong followings.
“We think the event will be even better this year,” Brunk said. “The most important thing is we hope the activities lead to a real good experience for the student athletes. That’s our bottom line. We hope it’s a memorable experience for them.”
Tickets are $10 for general admission, which is good for a whole day. Seniors, students and military can purchase a ticket for $5. Children 2 and under are admitted free.