Eagles unveil 17-game slate for first postseason eligible campaign
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Coming off a 13-win campaign that featured the program’s first national ranking and an Atlantic Sun regular season title, the FGCU men’s soccer team led by head coach Bob Butehorn announced its 2011 schedule on Tuesday afternoon as it looks ahead to its first year of full Division I postseason eligibility.
The 17-game slate features nine teams that finished in the top 100 of the final 2010 RPI rankings, including four top 50s. Four of the top 100 teams hail from the A-Sun conference, which had two teams in the top 40 last year led by FGCU’s final No. 34 ranking.
Aside from the eight Atlantic Sun Conference contests, this year’s 17-game schedule features nine non-conference contests with schools from the MAC, WCC, PAC-12, A-10, C-USA and BIG EAST conferences. Out of the 17 teams, nine produced double-digit win seasons, as the group combined for a 143-133-32 record with three NCAA Tournament berths in 2010.
“This schedule is specific to the level in which we think we can compete and be successful,” said Butehorn, who leads the Eagles into the fifth season of the program’s existence. “Our expectations for this program are high and so is the caliber of our competition. This season should provide us with an accurate measurement of our program’s overall growth.”
Finishing the year ranked No. 20 according to Soccer America, the Eagles wrapped up the 2010 season with a perfect 9-0 record in A-Sun play, outscoring their opposition 26-2 and bringing home their first A-Sun regular season championship. This season, the Blue and Green are set to return 20 players, including six A-Sun All-Conference performers and the Defensive Player of the Year, from the championship team and welcome in a strong recruiting class.
The 2011 season gets underway with the home opener at the FGCU Soccer Complex against FAU on August 26 at 7 p.m. The Owls finished the 2010 season in sixth place in the MAC with a 5-9-2 overall record and a 2-4-0 conference mark.
A west coast trip follows for the Blue and Green, as they hit the road for the first time at the Nike Portland Invitational. A meeting with Portland (9-4-6, 6-3-3 WCC) on September 2 at 10 p.m. EST kicks off the road swing for the Eagles, and will be followed with a 3 p.m. EST contest on September 4, against the PAC-12’s Washington (11-6-1, 5-5-0 PAC-12), which finished 41st in the RPI. Portland has made two College Cup appearances (1988, 1995) while Washington has advanced to the NCAA Tournament 19 times.
The University of Rhode Island then makes the trek to Fort Myers for a Sept. 8 match at the FGCU Soccer Complex beginning at 7 p.m. before the Eagles head up I-75 for the four-team USF Tournament from Sept. 16-18. FGCU will face UC Irvine (14-3-3), which topped the Big West conference with a 7-1-2 mark, in their opening game at 5 p.m., and conclude the event with an 11 a.m. meeting with the A-10’s St. Louis on Sept. 18. The Billikens have made 46 NCAA Tournament appearances since the program began in 1959.
Prior to the start of A-Sun play, the Eagles travel for one more road contest as they head to Orlando, Fla. for a 7 p.m. kickoff with UCF on Sept. 23. With a final RPI ranking of 33, one spot ahead of FGCU, the Knights finished second in the Conference USA standings with a 4-1-3 record (12-5-3 overall), and earned an NCAA Tournament first round victory over USF.
USF also appears on the Blue and Green’s schedule in 2011, as the Bulls visit campus on Oct. 7, for a 7 p.m. meeting. The Bulls finished fourth in the BIG EAST Red Division with a 9-7-4 overall and 4-3-2 league record. In the 2010 season-opener, the Eagles snapped the Bulls’ 30-game home unbeaten streak by handing then-No. 13 USF a 2-1 loss.
Looking to defend its first A-Sun Conference championship, the league portion of the schedule commences with a trip to DeLand, Fla. for a meeting with rival Stetson on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. The Hatters advanced to the A-Sun Championship match last fall as the No. 2 seed. FGCU clinched the regular season title last year against Stetson, scoring in the 101st minute in a double-overtime victory at home.
The Eagles will follow with 7 p.m. starts at home against Mercer (Oct. 8) and at USC Upstate (Oct. 14). A-Sun Tournament champ and NCAA Tournament representative ETSU will host the Blue and Green on Oct. 16 at 1 p.m., prior to a three-game FGCU homestand with Lipscomb (Oct. 21), Belmont (Oct. 23) and Jacksonville (Oct. 27). ETSU’s 15-6 overall record helped it finish No. 38 in the RPI.
UNF wraps up the A-Sun slate by welcoming the Eagles to Jacksonville, Fla. on Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.
With A-Sun and NCAA Tournament aspirations, one final non-conference tilt will unfold following the conclusion of conference play. The Eagles head to Miami, Fla. for a 7 p.m. start with FIU on Nov. 4.
For the first time in program history, FGCU will be eligible for postseason play after its four-year NCAA provisional period. The Atlantic Sun Tournament will be held from Nov. 9-13 on the campus of ETSU.