FORT MYLERS, Fla. – Coming off a season in which it finished third in the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season standings, the FGCU men’s soccer program released its 2010 schedule on Friday.
Led by reigning A-Sun Coach of the Year Bob Butehorn, this year’s rendition of the Eagles return 23 players, including five All-Conference performers, from the 2009 club that went 6-3 in the A-Sun and won five of its last seven games.
The challenging nine-game non-conference schedule features games against schools from the BIG EAST, Big Ten, Conference USA, Horizon League and CAA, in addition to the contests with fellow A-Sun Conference members. FGCU enters 2010 on a six-game home unbeaten streak in conference play after going 4-0 last season. The Eagles will host five of nine A-Sun games at FGCU Soccer Complex.
“Our non-conference schedule has gotten stronger each year and this one will challenge us as well,” said Butehorn, who leads the program into its fourth season. “Our goal is to play more of those non-conference games at home. A competitive and successful non-conference campaign will definitely attract more big name opponents to Southwest Florida in the years to come.”
The Blue and Green will open the non-conference slate with five consecutive road contests before landing in Fort Myers for a three-game homestand. FGCU’s nine non-conference opponents combined for 71 victories in 2009, four conference tournament appearances and two NCAA tournament berths.
Following a 2-0 loss to Akron in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and a 14-4-3 overall record (6-3-2 BIG EAST), USF will be the first non-conference opponent on the Eagles’ schedule. Heading two hours north on I-75 for the Sept. 1st meeting, FGCU will look for revenge of last year’s free kick in the 87th minute that gave then-No. 11 USF a 1-0 victory in FGCU’s home opener.
A four-game stretch of out-of-state contests will then ensue for the Eagles when they participate in a pair of tournaments. FGCU will first travel to Richmond, Va. Virginia Commonwealth Classic. The Eagles will begin by taking on the host Rams on Sept. 4th at 7 p.m. followed by a 1 p.m. tilt against Old Dominion on Sunday, Sept. 6. ODU posted an 11-5-2 record in 2009 and qualified for the CAA Tournament that features just four of the 12 teams in the conference.
Just four days following its trip to Richmond, FGCU will back on the road for the Marquette Invitational in Milwaukee, Wis. Once again, the Eagles will open the tournament by taking on the host with a 7 p.m. match against BIG EAST foe Marquette (Sept. 10). FGCU then squares off against 2009 Horizon League Tournament semifinalist Valparaiso on Sunday, Sept. 12. Valpo set a program record with 10 wins last season.
The Eagles finally return home for a trio of non-conference games at the FGCU Soccer Complex, highlighted by hosting the Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic that will feature BIG TEN power Ohio State, South Florida and Drexel. FGCU will open the tournament against Drexel on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Arguably the toughest non-conference matchup of the year for the Eagles comes two days later on Sept. 18 against the Buckeyes at 7:30 p.m. Ohio State advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year and seventh time since 2000 last year after capturing Big Ten Tournament with a 1-0 victory over Penn State. OSU advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 12-5-4 record.
FGCU’s final tune up before A-Sun action will come on Friday, Sept. 24 against Florida International. The Eagles defeated the Golden Panthers, 1-0, last year in their season-opener in Miami.
The Eagles then open conference play with pair of road games in Nashville, Tenn., as they collide with Lipscomb on Oct. 1st and Belmont on Oct. 3rd. Clinging to the sixth seed in the A-Sun Tournament, Lipscomb finished 2009 with a 6-10-3 record (3-4-2 A-Sun), while Belmont ended the year in 11th place in the A-Sun with a 3-13-1 count (2-7-0 A-Sun).
Back-to-back night games will have the Blue and Green at the FGCU Soccer Complex on Oct. 8th versus USC-Upstate and ETSU on Oct. 10th at 7 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. With a 5-9-2 record (2-5-2 A-Sun), Upstate placed 10th in the final A-Sun standings and ETSU made the conference tournament as the No.3 seed, holding a 6-9-3 overall record (4-4-1 A-Sun).
In one of the most anticipated A-Sun matchups of the year, FGCU will travel to Buies Creek, N.C. for a contest with defending A-Sun regular season champion Campbell on Oct. 14th. Last season, the Eagles handed the Camels their first conference loss in nearly two years during a 4-0 win at the FGCU Soccer Complex. Campbell’s conference unbeaten streak ended at 18 games, as FGCU jumped into the top spot in the A-Sun standings with the victory. Campbell concluded the year with a 7-1-1 A-Sun record and the No. 1 seed in the Conference Tournament. The road trip will wrap up in Macon, Ga. on Oct. 16 when the Blue and Green square against Mercer, who ended 2009 with a 4-5 A-Sun record and a No. 5 seed in the postseason tournament.
A non-conference tilt with Florida Atlantic on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. will kick-off the final four-game stretch of the season, all of which be played at FGCU Soccer Complex. FGCU’s second Saturday conference tilt of the season comes on Oct. 22 when defending A-Sun Tournament champ Stetson visits campus. The Hatters went 14-4-2 in 2009 and fell to USF, 2-1, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles will conclude regular season action with a pair of home A-Sun weekend contests, beginning with Jacksonville on Friday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. FGCU will then round out its fourth season in the A-Sun Conference with North Florida two days later on Oct. 31. The Ospreys posted an even 4-4-1 record in conference play in 2009 to earn the No. 4 seed.
“Conference games are always competitive,” Butehorn said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to build off our recent success.”
For the fourth and final year, FGCU will not be eligible for postseason play due to the four-year NCAA provisional period. The Atlantic Sun Tournament will be held on Nov. 6-13 at host sites of the higher-seed.