JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 3, 2012) – Meetings with four teams inside the top 50 of last season’s final RPI – including a home match against perennial ACC powerhouse and 2007 national champion Wake Forest – highlight the 2012 men’s soccer schedule which ETSU head coach Scott Calabrese released on Tuesday.
Including the Oct. 9 game at Summers-Taylor Stadium against Wake Forest, the Bucs are slated to host eight regular season games and two preseason exhibitions. ETSU’s regular season schedule also includes 10 road games, including its first trip to Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 19 to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.
In total, ETSU’s 2012 schedule includes games against four teams from the 2011 NCAA Tournament field – Florida Gulf Coast, Furman, Wake Forest and UAB – who all ended the season inside the RPI top 50. UAB also checked in at No. 21 in the final NSCAA Coaches Poll after earning the 11-seed and falling to eventual national runner up UNC Charlotte in the NCAA’s second round.
The remainder of ETSU’s tough schedule contains five additional teams inside the top 100 of the 2011 final RPI – Appalachian State, UNC Greensboro, Davidson, Kentucky and A-Sun rival Stetson.
“The 2012 schedule is probably the most challenging we have ever put together,” said Calabrese, who will enter his fifth season as head of the Buccaneer men’s soccer program. “When you look at the non-conference portion, you’re looking at teams that are typically in the top 25 and are consistently strong. The College of Charleston, UNC Greensboro, UAB, Kentucky, Furman, as well as Wake Forest, are all very well respected programs with strong traditions of success, and it will be a way for us to really challenge ourselves during the non-conference season.”
ETSU begins the preseason on Aug. 14 when it welcomes Milligan in the Bucs’ first of two home exhibitions. Four days later, ETSU plays its final friendly when the College of Charleston visits Johnson City, Tenn., to wrap up the preseason.
The regular season gets underway Aug. 24 when ETSU looks to avenge last year’s, 1-0, late-season, double overtime loss to Appalachian State. It will be the fourth all-time meeting between the two squads, and ETSU’s first visit to Boone, N.C., since defeating the Moutaineers, 1-0, in overtime on Nov. 2, 2010.
The Bucs kickoff the home season on Aug. 28 in a rematch of last season’s double overtime thriller against UNC Greensboro. In last year’s meeting, ETSU earned its first ever win over a nationally ranked opponent when Alesi Osorio (Austin, Texas) broke a scoreless game with 43 seconds remaining at the UNCG Soccer Stadium to give the Bucs a, 1-0, victory.
“Greensboro is a great program with a tradition of success,” Calabrese said. “We got our first win over a nationally ranked team when we beat them last year, and I’m sure they will have extra motivation to come here to play us. We’ll have to be prepared and ready to play when Greensboro comes to town.”
After hitting the road for an Aug. 31 battle with Presbyterian, ETSU returns home on Sept. 2 for a matchup against a potentially, nationally ranked squad in UAB. The Blazers went 13-5-3 last year and ended the 2011 season at No. 21 in the final NSCAA Coaches Poll. UAB also finished at No. 17 in the final RPI, which is the strongest of all the teams ETSU is scheduled to face in 2012.
ETSU ends its mini-home stand on Sept. 8 with its first game against Radford since Sept. 11, 2009. It will be the Bucs third all-time meeting with the Highlanders, in a series which is currently at 1-1-0.
The Buccaneers’ next four games all come on the road in meetings with Davidson (Sept. 15), Kentucky (Sept. 19), Winthrop (Sept. 22) and Furman (Sept. 27). ETSU played its first all-time meeting against Davidson last year, defeating the Wildcats, 3-2, courtesy of an 87th minute goal by David Geno (Kingsport, Tenn.). ETSU then heads for its first meeting with a second group of Wildcats as it takes on four-time NCAA Tournament participant, Kentucky. UK’s best postseason finish came in its Sweet 16 run during the 2000 season.
The second half of ETSU’s four-game road trip contains two opponents off the Bucs’ original 2011 schedule. Last year, ETSU was supposed to face Winthrop in Rock Hill, S.C., but never made the journey due to inclement weather throughout the day, and the two sides agreed to cancel the match. ETSU will then travel to Greenville, S.C., to conclude the road swing in its third all-time meeting with Furman. Last season, the Bucs and Paladins squared off at Summers-Taylor Stadium with ETSU ranked No. 22 by Soccer America, while Furman was ranked No. 25 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll and No. 23 in Soccer America. Through two overtimes, the match ended in a, 0-0, draw.
When ETSU returns home, it will be to start the Atlantic Sun portion of the season with three-consecutive home matches against Mercer (Sept. 30), North Florida (Oct. 5) and Jacksonville (Oct. 7). Against the three squads during the 2011 regular season, ETSU went a combined 1-2-0 with its lone victory coming in thrilling fashion at North Florida. With ETSU holding a 0-2 A-Sun record at the time after opening the conference season with losses to Belmont and Lipscomb, the Bucs trailed UNF, 2-1, with under two minutes to play, but were saved by an Aaron Schoenfeld (Knoxville, Tenn.) penalty kick with 1:52 remaining. In overtime, Theo Yang (Lilburn, Ga.) broke through in the 101st minute to save ETSU from a potentially catastrophic 0-3 start.
“When you get to conference it’s always a battle, and that has to be the focus for our team,” Calabrese said. “When you look at our conference schedule, last year we put ourselves in a difficult situation early on where we didn’t amass the amount of points we wanted to. It really came down to a critical game against USC Upstate at the end of the year where we had to win or would have been eliminated from the A-Sun Tournament.”
Perhaps ETSU’s highest profile game of the season follows its first three A-Sun contests, when the Bucs step back out of conference to welcome in Wake Forest. The game will be the last of ETSU’s four-consecutive home contests, and the Bucs’ first ever meeting with the Demon Deacons. In Wake Forest’s prestigious men’s soccer history, the Demon Deacons have made four College Cup appearances including a 2007 national championship. The last time Wake Forest made the College Cup was in 2009, when it lost in the national semifinal, 2-1, to eventual national champion Virginia. The Demon Deacons also made the College Cup in 2008 as the No. 1 overall seed, falling to eventual national champion North Carolina, 1-0, in Frisco, Texas.
“We always try to a host a big game from a prestigious university, and in this case Wake Forest is going to come play us on Oct. 9,” Calabrese said. “Wake [Forest], a powerhouse in the ACC, will be a really good test for us and a great game for our fans to get excited about here at home.”
The A-Sun schedule resumes on Oct. 13 when ETSU looks to exact some revenge at Lipscomb after losing to the Bison, 2-1, at Summers-Taylor Stadium last year. The loss dropped ETSU to 0-2 in conference play at the time after having been disciplined with three red cards in the conference opening loss at Belmont. Last year’s game against Lipscomb was also the last time ETSU was nationally ranked, coming in at No. 24 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll and No. 22 in Soccer America.
ETSU’s final home game of the regular season comes Oct. 19 in its first meeting with the A-Sun’s newest member, Northern Kentucky. The Norse men’s soccer program enjoyed much success at the Division II level, earning a No. 1 national ranking through several seasons including a national championship title in 2010.
Closing out ETSU’s regular season schedule are three-consecutive road matches against defending conference tournament champion Florida Gulf Coast (Oct. 26), Stetson (Oct. 28) and USC Upstate (Nov. 3). After defeating FGCU, 2-1, in the 2011 regular season, the Bucs were bitten in the A-Sun Championship final by an 89th minute goal from Scott Harrison, and were turned away in the dying seconds when Yianni Sarris headed out a sure equalizer.
On its way to the final, ETSU had to play what could be considered its greatest game in its four-year history. Against Stetson in the A-Sun semifinal, ETSU went down 2-0 in the opening 6:38, and came all the way back to take a 3-2 lead with 2:12 to play before surrendering an own goal in the final minute to force overtime. After two scoreless overtime periods, Ryan Coulter (Dublin, Ireland) saved ETSU’s season in the penalty shootout with a stop in the fifth round which would have won Stetson the game, and the final save in the eighth round to send ETSU to the championship final.
For the third year in a row, ETSU is scheduled to battle USC Upstate in the final game of the A-Sun season. Last year’s meeting was as crucial a game as possible, with ETSU needing a win to advance to the A-Sun Tournament and doing so with two goals in the final 16 minutes after trailing the Spartans, 1-0.
“Again this year, we are seeing Upstate at the very end,” Calabrese said. “Typically that last day of the conference season is always a critical day where teams are trying to scrape their way in or earn the highest possible seed. As we saw last year, this will definitely be an important date for us.”
The 2012 Atlantic Sun Championship is scheduled for Nov. 7-11.
For more information on ETSU men’s soccer, please visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s soccer links.