NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Featuring 11 opponents who finished last season in the top-100 RPI in the nation, including five 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, Lipscomb men’s soccer’s 2017 schedule presents one of the most challenging seasons in the program’s history.
“For years we’ve been trying to increase our strength of schedule,” said head coach Charles Morrow who prepares for his 13th season this fall. “Our schedule is what it is because that’s who we are. When you are a top-50 RPI team, you need to challenge yourself.
The 11 RPI top-100 foes is a program-record to begin a season. It tops the previous high of six, set last season. Seven of the 17 regular-season matches will be at home with “Senior Day” falling on Oct. 28.
“The interest from teams willing to play us has gotten better and better as we have,” said Morrow. “I’m excited about the schedule.”
Two exhibitions will begin the fall schedule for the Bisons with a road match on Aug. 12 against Louisville followed by a home game against Cincinnati on the 19th. It’ll be jumping into the deep-end to start the season for the Bisons as the Cardinals finished last year as the No. 8 team in the nation and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s an important game because they are going to be a tournament team, and we expect to be a tournament team,” Morrow said. “They could very well be a team that we could be matched up with in a first-round game. Hopefully, the exhibition will pay off when we see them again come NCAA Tournament time.”
The regular season will start at home on August 25 against first-time opponent Niagara of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Purple Eagles finished last season at 4-11-2 and will become the first MAAC opponent the Bisons have ever played.
After the home opener, Lipscomb will face a string of five consecutive top-100, nonconference teams. The Bisons will take on South Florida (30), SIU-Edwardsville (48), ETSU (33), Georgia St. (61) and San Diego (87).
“Not only are they top-100 teams, but we will see a variety of different styles of play,” said Morrow. “Coming off the San Diego trip, we will have a pretty good idea of where we are at, if not before.”
While SIUE and Georgia St. will come to the Lipscomb Soccer Complex, the Bisons will have to make the farthest road trip of the season to play San Diego. That match on Sept. 15 and another three days later against UC Irvine mark the first time the Bisons have traveled farther west than Dallas to play a match.
“We were lucky enough a couple of years ago to have San Diego come out to us, so this is the return trip,” Morrow said. “It just happens to fall on a year where we are going to be really competitive. Different pockets of the country have different styles of play so it’s good for us to get out there and play against some California teams. It’s going to be a great trip.”
ASUN Conference play will kick-off for Lipscomb on Sept. 23 at USC Upstate. Three of the first four ASUN games will be on the road for Lipscomb, including a showdown in Ft. Myers, Fla. on Oct. 4 against last season’s ASUN tournament champ FGCU.
This year’s home ASUN matches will feature three intriguing opponents. On Sept. 30, NJIT will make their first appearance at the corner of Shackleford Rd. and Belmont Blvd. Two weeks later North Florida, last year’s ASUN regular season champion, will visit Nashville. Jacksonville will round out the ASUN schedule for the Bisons on Oct. 28.
“Starting conference with so many on the road is not great. Those are not easy trips at all,” Morrow said. “But if you are going to be weighted one way or the other, you’d probably want to finish up at home rather than start at home.”
One of Tennessee’s most exciting and bitter rivalries will renew down in Shelby Co. as Lipscomb will square-off with Memphis for the 7th-time. Despite the Tigers holding a 6-1 series advantage, the matches have delivered drama including late goals and plenty of cautions.
“Spring matches don’t always mean a whole lot, but we beat them pretty handily in the spring, and they weren’t too happy about that,” said Morrow. “It’ll be a really good game and a game that they’ll want to win.”
The premier nonconference match on the 2017 slate comes late in the season with the Bisons travelling up to Lexington, Kentucky to face Kentucky on October 21. Last season, the Bisons played the then No. 20 Wildcats to a 1-1 double-overtime draw.
“It’s important going into the conference tournament that we have experience playing quality teams,” Morrow said. “After last season, we will not sneak up on them this year.”
Overall, Coach Morrow and his staff are excited about the way the schedule has come together. Expectations are high, but a new season always breeds hope.
“If guys come in prepared and healthy, we have the opportunity to have a really special year,” Morrow said.