For the second consecutive year, the best collegiate soccer has to offer will be on display locally this week.
Beginning Thursday, Blanchard Woods Park is the site of the Division II 2013 Men’s and Women’s Soccer National Championships.
Thursday, the semifinal rounds will be played, beginning with women’s games at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the men slated to take the pitch at 5 and 8 p.m.
Saturday, the women’s championship game begins at 11 a.m. with the men’s at 2 p.m.
The competition includes a pair of teams coming in ranked No. 1: the Southern New Hampshire University Penmen (20-1-1) men’s team and the 22-0-1 Grand Valley State Lakers women’s team, who are returning for the second consecutive year.
Also no strangers to Blan-chard Woods Park are the No. 3 University of West Florida Argonauts (17-0-3), the 2012 defending women’s national champions and the Simon Fraser University Clan (18-2-2) men’s team, making a return appearance to the semifinals.
On the men’s side, history could favor the Penman, who made the finals in 1989 and 2002, the two previous times they advanced to the national semifinals, winning it all in 1989.
The Argonauts are making their fourth final four appearance in the past six years.
Thursday, the Lakers, who were national champions in 2009 and 2010, face the No. 13 Yellow Jackets of American International College (16-2-2) at 11 a.m. At 2 p.m., the Argonauts take on the No. 9 Western Washington University Vikings (20-1-1), who set a school record for wins while advancing further than any other women’s soccer team in school history.
The Penmen open men’s play at 5 p.m., squaring off against the No. 14 Rockhurst University Hawks (17-3-3). At 8 p.m., the Clan take on the Carson-Newman College Eagles (15-4-1), who are making their program’s first final four appearance.