NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb men’s soccer head coach Charles Morrow unveiled a challenging 2016 schedule on Thursday as preparations are in progress for his 12th season at the helm of the Bisons program.
“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about this upcoming season,” Morrow said. “Not only are we excited about the group we have returning, but also about the kids we have coming in. I feel like the core of guys we have are special, so regardless of the schedule, we are chomping at the bit to get ready.
“The schedule is set up in a way that I feel like we can have a really successful year. There are some key games in there that if we do well, those could really set us up well in terms of RPI and strength of schedule. But overall I feel like this is a schedule that will give us a really good chance to advance beyond the conference tournament.”
The tough 16-game lineup will feature two matchups with 2015 NCAA Tournament teams, six contests against squads that finished last season in the top 100 RPI rankings and nine games at the friendly confines of the Lipscomb Soccer Complex.
In preparation for the regular season slate, Morrow and his squad will play two exhibition matches that will present very different challenges on each end of the soccer spectrum. They will travel to Cincinnati (Aug. 16) before returning to host Lindsey Wilson (Aug. 20).
“The preseason games with Cincinnati and Lindsey Wilson will be two tough and different challenges for us,” Morrow said. “Cincinnati is a team that is really athletic and is always tough at home. For us to play a team like that early on is important for us because we will see similar teams throughout the course of the year.
“Lindsey Wilson is a NAIA team, but they are a program that has won nine championships with players from all across the world. It will be more of a game that we have to win with our heads rather than our physical prowess.
“It is really a contrast in games and style of play with these two exhibition matches. It will give our guys some experience and help them learn how to deal with different problems.”
The 2016 regular season begins with the only two-game weekend for the Bisons as they take part in the Lipscomb/Belmont Challenge. The opener will see Lipscomb square off with Florida Atlantic at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 26 at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex, before hosting Western Illinois on Sunday, August 28 in a 1 p.m. start time.
“Florida Atlantic is an in-region opponent and it will be a really important game in front of our home fans,” Morrow said. “Western Illinois will present a tough challenge to close out that opening weekend. They will be two quality games for us early on in the season.”
The month of September kicks off with a road trip to Georgia State on Friday the 2nd at 7:30 p.m. before returning to the Music City for a two-game homestand.
Familiar foe and former Atlantic Sun member Mercer will venture to Nashville for a Thursday night showdown on September 8 at 7 p.m., followed by an anticipated bout with arch rival Belmont on Tuesday, September 13 at 7 p.m.
The Bruins handed Lipscomb a 2-0 defeat in the season opener last season at Rose Park, ending a 10-year streak in which the Bisons had not lost in the Battle of the Boulevard.
In the final nonconference tune-up before league play begins, Lipscomb must travel to Edwardsville, Illinois to take on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (Sept. 17).
“We then have a tough four-game stretch before conference play begins,” said Morrow. “Georgia State is a nice in-region game for us to open up September. We are happy to have Mercer and Belmont at home before traveling to SIUE. Most of those teams have had recent success on the pitch, so getting as many results as we can get in that stretch will be pretty important for us.”
The Purple and Gold begin the toughest part of its schedule when Stetson comes to town for the Atlantic Sun opener on Wednesday, September 21. From there the Bisons will make two trips south to match up with Jacksonville (Sept. 24) and reigning ASUN Champion, North Florida (Oct. 1).
“I like the way the schedule is laid out,” Morrow said. “There is a period in late September and early October where it will be a taxing slate with games on Saturday followed by midweek.
“We like that it is spaced out that way rather than two on the weekend, but to have every date filled in that stretch is taxing and it will present a big challenge to our group, just to make sure that not only can we stay healthy in that period, but also stay fresh.”
Sandwiched between the trips to the Sunshine State is a key road game against Kentucky (Sept. 28).
The Wildcats are coming off a season that saw them advance to the NCAA Tournament as a 12-win team after capturing their first-ever Conference USA title. UK navigated an unblemished journey through a strong conference slate, all while conceding just one goal during the stretch.
Immediately after the three-game road swing, Lipscomb will return to the Lipscomb Soccer Complex for an all-important three-game homestand. The Bisons will take on Memphis (Oct. 5) and USC Upstate (Oct. 8) before hosting perennial power UAB (Oct. 11).
Lipscomb hosted Memphis last season in exhibition play where the teams battled to a 0-0 draw. The last match with UAB came in a 2014 exhibition game that saw the Bisons play to a hard-fought 5-3 defeat.
Next on tap for Lipscomb is its first-ever trip to Newark, New Jersey to take on NJIT (Oct. 22).
Although the Highlanders are on the verge of entering their second season as an ASUN member, 2016 will be the first full season for the men’s soccer team. NJIT played last season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, fulfilling a commitment before transitioning over.
The Bisons will travel to Evansville (Oct. 25) in the final nonconference match before closing out the regular season with senior night against Florida Gulf Coast (Oct. 29).
“We finish up with FGCU on what will probably be senior day for us,” Morrow said. “We feel like our game with them in the last weeks of the season is usually pretty meaningful with regards to the final conference standings.
“It is good to have them in that last game because we will more than likely see them again the next week in the conference tournament.”
The ASUN Championship will take place November 4-12 with the first two rounds taking place on campus sites. The tournament final will then be held at the highest remaining seed’s field.
“Having the games spread out will also allow our fans to get to the games much easier,” Morrow said. “In the past with a good number of our games on Sunday afternoons, it was always hard for everyone to get there, but this setup should be more fan friendly.
“We are looking forward to a big student support for our home games and we can’t wait until the season gets started.”
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