Courtesy of Akron Sports Information
AKRON, Ohio –
Ten home games, featuring visits from NCAA Tournament qualifiers South Florida and St. John's, a grudge match against Michigan and the first Mid-American Conference contest against West Virginia, highlight the 2012 University of Akron men's soccer fall schedule, head coach Caleb Porter announced Wednesday.
"This is perhaps the most difficult schedule we have ever put together and it's exactly what we need to continue competing for national championships," said Porter, entering his seventh season as the Zips head coach. "Last year, our strength of schedule and RPI hurt us when it came to seeding in the NCAA Tournament, so we felt it was important to step things up, especially with a mature team returning."
In all, the Zips, who will return eight of 11 starters this fall, will face seven opponents who qualified for the NCAA Tournament a year ago, including an early-season road match atCollege Cup participant Creighton. Of those seven, four will make the trip to FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field where the Zips have lost just once since 2007 and posted the NCAA's record for longest home unbeaten streak (48 matches).
Information about 2012 UA season tickets, including details about additional reserved seating at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field, will be announced Thursday on GoZips.com.
"The top programs typically view the regular season as preparation for the postseason, not as an opportunity to rack up easy wins," Porter said. "Certainly, this schedule will be extremely challenging in terms of getting results. But we will be battle tested and ready to win games in the NCAA Tournament, which is our No. 1 priority."
Following a pair of preseason games against Saint Louis (Aug. 15) and Wright State (Aug. 17) at home, the 2012 season officially gets underway on Aug. 24 when Atlantic Sun champion Florida Gulf Coast comes to town for the first meeting between the two schools. It will be the second consecutive season the Zips have opened the year at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field after spending the previous three openers on the road.
UA will then take to the road for its next four matches, starting first at the Creighton Tournament in Nebraska. There, UA will face the host Bluejays, who came up short in a penalty kick shootout against eventual NCAA runner-up Charlotte in the 2011 College Cup semifinals, on Aug. 31 in one of several marquee matchups on the Zips' fall slate before taking on SIUE two days later.
The stakes remain high when Akron travels to South Bend, Ind., for the Notre Dame Tournament where it will face a pair of elite teams in Indiana (Sept. 7) and the host Fighting Irish (Sept. 9). The Hoosiers are one of three 2012 opponents that advanced to the Round of 16 or beyond last year and one of four that were ranked in the top 20 of the final coaches' poll.
With key early-season RPI implications, The University of Akron Tournament follows the next weekend featuring two opponents – St. John's (Sept. 14) and South Florida (Sept. 16) – that were seeded in last year's championship bracket. The Red Storm was awarded a No. 9 seed after winning the BIG EAST championship year ago while the Bulls, as a No. 7 seed, advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals where they were defeated by Creighton in a 1-0, overtime thriller.
The month of October features a number of interesting match-ups including a pair of home games against budding rival Michigan on Oct. 16 and the first ever MAC contest against the Mountaineers on Oct. 20. The Zips will then kick off a three-game road swing to close out the month with an intrastate showdown at Ohio State on Oct. 23.
Other matches of note in the month include a trip to defending MAC Tournament champion Northern Illinois (Oct. 13) and visits to Penn State (Oct. 10) and Michigan State (Oct. 31).
Akron will put its run of seven-straight MAC regular-season titles – including every season of Caleb Porter's career – on the line when it opens league play at Bowling Green on Sept. 22. The rest of the MAC schedule sees UA face Buffalo (Sept. 30), Florida Atlantic (Oct. 5) and Western Michigan (Nov. 3) at home and Hartwick (Oct. 27) on the road.
In all, the Zips, who will compete in 18 regular-season matches, will play seven games against the MAC – its highest total since 1999 following the addition of new affiliate member WVU – and five versus schools from the Big Ten.
The 2012 MAC Tournament will be hosted by the league's regular-season champion from Nov. 9-11 while the NCAA College Cup, which will take place from Dec. 7-9, will be hosted at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., for the second consecutive year.
Despite losing seven starters from its 2010 NCAA National Championship squad to the Major LeagueSoccer SuperDraft, the Zips made another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Round of 16 for the fourth consecutive year before falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Charlotte.
Following the season, sophomore striker Darren Mattocks, who finished second in the country with 21 goals as a first-team All-American, was selected with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Akron will return eight of 11 starters this fall and recently announced the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation last February.
2012 Men's Soccer Fall Schedule
Aug. 15 – Saint Louis (exh.), 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 – Wright State (exh.), 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 – Florida Gulf Coast, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 – at Creighton, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 – vs. SIUE, 1 p.m.
Sept. 7 – vs. Indiana, 5 p.m.
Sept. 9 – at Notre Dame, 2 p.m.
Sept. 14 – St. John's, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 – South Florida, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 – at Bowling Green*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 – Buffalo*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 – Florida Atlantic*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 10 – at Penn State, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 – at Northern Illinois*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 16 – Michigan, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 – West Virginia*, TBA
Oct. 23 – at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 – at Hartwick*, 3 p.m.
Oct. 31 – at Michigan State, 3 p.m.
Nov. 3 – Western Michigan*, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9-11 – Mid-American Conference Tournament
Dec. 7-9 – NCAA College Cup
*- Mid-American Conference game
Home contests in bold.
All dates and times are subject to change.