NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Less than a month from kicking off the most anticipated season in the history of the Lipscomb Men’s Soccer program, the Bisons and 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year, Charles Morrow have announced the 2014 fall schedule.
The tough lineup will feature games against five squads that finished last season in the top-100 in the RPI and nine teams that recorded eight or more victories.
In 2013 the Bisons finished 9-9-2 overall, finished third in the league standings and reached the semifinals of the A-Sun Tournament for the fifth time in the past seven seasons.
All 11 starters for the Purple and Gold will return for 2014, including the reigning A-Sun Player of the Year in senior midfielder Omar Djabi.
Highlighting the 2014 slate is three first-ever meetings – James Madison, Houston Baptist and Longwood; two midseason tournaments and a regular season home finale matchup with 2013 A-Sun Champion Florida Gulf Coast.
The Bisons will get things started with two preseason warm-up matches in preparation for the regular season.
Lipscomb will play host to arch rival Belmont on Aug. 16 at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex before making the trek south on I-65 to Birmingham, Alabama to face national power UAB on Aug. 23.
Lipscomb and UAB met just three short months ago in Nashville for the Bisons’ First Annual Spring Collegiate Soccer Showcase. The Bisons knocked off the Blazers 4-2 in what was the program’s first-ever win over UAB. The Conference USA member was ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation last season and finished the year ranked 26th in the NSCAA Poll.
“My hope is that the strength of our preseason schedule will prepare us for a tough road test at Xavier to open the season,” Morrow said. “We have a great opportunity this year to have a really special season.
“If our guys come in prepared and healthy, we will be further ahead on the first day of preseason than we've ever been at Lipscomb. We need to use the preseason to grow as a team and integrate the incoming players into what is already a very talented group.”
If facing the Blazers doesn’t prove to be a hard enough challenge before the season even begins, Lipscomb will hit the road for its first five games of the regular season.
Morrow welcomes the challenge.
“Playing away from home for so many games to start the season does not scare me with this team,” said Morrow. “We need to play and beat these better teams in our region in order to give us the best opportunity for postseason play beyond our conference tournament.
“If that means going to their places to do that, there is no other team I would rather take. We are up for the challenge.”
Kicking off the Bisons’ regular season slate is a matchup with Big East Conference member, Xavier, on Aug. 29.
It will be just the third meeting between the two schools in the series history. The Musketeers escaped with a pair of 1-0 victories in the previous two matches (2010 & 2011).
Xavier finished fourth in the Big East last season with a 10-7-2 record and a No. 46 RPI standing.
Lipscomb will continue its five-state road swing in Charleston, Illinois on Sept. 1 where it will battle Eastern Illinois before venturing to Evansville in a rare Sunday matchup Sept. 7.
“We owe Eastern Illinois and Evansville a return trip, so we sometimes we have to take what we can get, but if we are going to be in consideration for a regional ranking and a NCAA Tournament berth Xavier is a game we need to play.”
The next weekend Lipscomb heads north on Granny White Pike to E.S. Rose Park for contests with Gardner-Webb (Sept.12) and James Madison (Sept. 14) at the Belmont Mafioza’s Invite.
The matchup with JMU will be the inaugural meeting between the two universities.
After being on the road for the first month of the season, the Bisons will finally see playing time at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex when they play host to the 7th annual Hyatt Place Select Lipscomb Invitational. The four-team field features Belmont, Houston Baptist and Memphis.
“I think the two tournaments on our slate give us an opportunity to play quality out-of-region opponents,” Morrow said. “Getting results against those teams are important as we try to continue to build our soccer program. Those games will also give our team some exposure to different styles of play that will prepare us for a strong run at the end of the season.”
Lipscomb will kick things off in front of the hometown fans against Houston Baptist in the invitational opener on Sept. 17.
On Friday Sept. 19, Belmont and HBU will get the day started, followed with a Bison and Tiger matchup when the host team battles Memphis.
Belmont and Memphis will close the tournament as the lone game on Sunday, Sept. 21.
For the first time since the 2011 season, Georgia State will make a trip to the Lipscomb campus on Sept. 26. The Bisons are winless (0-8) all-time against the Panthers.
As the calendar rolls into October, A-Sun play gets underway when USC Upstate rolls into Nashville on Oct. 1.
For the first of three consecutive Saturday matchups for Lipscomb, the Purple and Gold will travel to Highland Heights, Kentucky to square off with third-year A-Sun participant Northern Kentucky on Oct. 4.
A home battle with Stetson (Oct. 11) will look to give the Bisons momentum before heading to the Sunshine State to face North Florida (Oct. 18).
Lipscomb steps out of league play for a pair of non-conference matches to close the month of October.
The Bisons head west to face Central Arkansas (Oct. 21) before battling Longwood University for the first time in program history (Oct. 25) in Music City.
Defending A-Sun champion, Florida Gulf Coast makes the trip to Nashville for the Bisons’ home finale Nov. 1.
Lipscomb will make its second trip to Jacksonville, Florida in a three-week span on Nov. 8 for the final regular season game of 2014.
“I absolutely believe that on paper this is the best team Lipscomb has ever had coming into any preseason,” Morrow said with confidence. “That doesn't mean much until we prove something, but it does mean the potential is there.
“The returning players recognize and understand the opportunity that is in front of them and that nothing will be given to them, they will have to earn everything they get. We have been working since January for the fall season ahead of us. They are very hungry and will meet the lofty expectations head-on.”
The A-Sun Championship will take place Nov. 12-16 on the campus of the team that wins the regular season.
For the latest on Lipscomb Men’s Soccer, follow @LipscombMSOC on Twitter and visit the team’s homepage on Facebook.