BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech handled the pressure of win-or-else soccer Sunday.
Kristo Strickler scored two goals to help the Hokies beat New Hampshire 4-1 in the second round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament on a cold afternoon at Thompson Field.
Strickler, whose team scored the final four goals of the match, said NCAA tournament soccer is “the best thing ever.”
“It’s so exciting, every game — the atmosphere, the amount of pressure and the rewards of getting the victory,” he said. “It’s what we live for.”
The Hokies (10-5-3), who had a first-round bye, advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.
Virginia Tech is in the NCAAs for the fourth straight year — the longest string of bids in its history.
“I love it — except for the weather,” said senior James Kasak, who scored a goal Sunday.
The Hokies are the No. 10 overall seed in the 48-team field — the best seed in their history. Only the top 16 teams in the tournament were seeded.
“We always defend hard and we attack hard,” Strickler said. “We can play both sides and punch teams in the mouth.”
Virginia Tech has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Nine of Tech’s regular-season foes wound up in this year’s NCAA field.
“It’s like playing an NCAA tournament game once a week,” Kasak said. “Prepares us well for the postseason.”
New Hampshire (15-2-1), which beat Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round Thursday, entered Sunday having allowed just seven goals all season. The Wildcats boasted the stingiest goals-against average (0.35) in the nation.
But Virginia Tech led 3-1 at halftime Sunday. The Hokies finished with four goals, tying three other games for their season-high output.
“To give up seven goals all year and then be in this scenario, it’s a little bit frustrating,” Wildcats coach Marc Hubbard said. “They’ve got some dangerous individual personalities in the attack.”
Virginia Tech played Sunday for the first time since an ACC quarterfinal loss at Wake Forest on Nov. 10.
“We were tired of kicking each other in practice for two weeks straight, so we were ready to play a new opponent,” Kasak said.
But Jacob Gould scored in the 16th minute to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
“Having so much time off, we were a little rusty. We didn’t get a good start,” Tech coach Mike Brizendine said.
“That’s never a great way to start a game,” Tech goalkeeper Mathijs Swaneveld said. “But … maybe this was good for us, a little wake-up call.”
Strickler said the team was not worried about the early deficit.
“We knew we had to respond, and we did,” Strickler said.
Strickler, an All-ACC second-team pick, scored on a header off a throw-in from Jacob Labovitz to tie the game in the 17th minute.
Strickler scored on another header, this time off a free kick from Northside graduate Daniel Pereira, to give Tech a 2-1 lead in the 35th minute.
Kasak scored on a deflection in the 38th minute.
The 23rd-ranked Hokies added a goal in the second half when Camron Lennon scored in the 73rd minute.
Swaneveld had seven saves for Tech, while Alejandro Robles had four saves for the Wildcats.
Tech senior Brendan Moyers missed Sunday’s game because of a career-ending leg injury. Tech also was without Nico Quashie and Marc Hoppler.