April 16, 2013
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -
Bob Gray will enter his 19th season as Marshall's men's soccer head coach and on Tuesday announced a schedule that he calls the "toughest" he has ever assembled.
The Thundering Herd will play nine teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season, six that either finished or received votes in the final NCAA top 25, three in the top 10. One of the opponents, Maryland, participated in national semifinals.
"It will be great for us to play 11 home games next year in our brand new stadium especially after having to play practically all our games on the road this past season," said Gray, of his team that finished with an 11-5-1 record.
In most years, exhibition games offer subpar competition and gain little attention. This fall, both exhibition games should provide immediate interest. The first is on Aug. 20 at Akron, a team that was ranked in the top 10 last season. The Zips went 18-1-3 in 2012 and fell in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Herd's second exhibition will be the opener for its new stadium, currently being constructed east on campus on 5th Avenue on Aug. 23 against a group of Marshall soccer alumni.
The Herd will spend the first five games of the regular season on the road. The season opener will be at Appalachian State on Aug. 30. On Sept. 1, Marshall will play at Davidson for the first time since 2008. The following weekend, Marshall will face Wright State for the fourth time in four years with this meeting coming on Sept. 6 in Dayton, Ohio.
On Sept. 8, the Herd plays at Cleveland State. The Vikings went 11-6-3 last season and won the Horizon League Championship to advance to the NCAA Tournament. It will be the seventh meeting between the two schools and the first since 2006 with the Herd leading 6-1.
Marshall will play its next seven matches at home starting with the Qdoba Invitational beginning on Sept. 13 with IPFW and St. Francis at 5 p.m. preceding Marshall and Oakland at 7:30 p.m. The Grizzlies finished 11-7-1 last season. Then on Sept. 15, Oakland and St. Francis play at 12:30 p.m. while Marshall and IPFW play at 2:30 p.m.
"We are excited to fill the new stadium next year and appreciate all the support we get from our local soccer community and our student body," said Gray.
Marshall will also host VMI on Sept. 17 and Bowling Green on Sept. 27.
The strength of Marshall's schedule is within its Conference USA slate. The normally strong soccer conference will be even tougher this season with the addition of some solid schools.
"Our conference, with the addition of New Mexico, UNC Charlotte and Old Dominion will be probably the second strongest conference in the country next year behind the ACC," said Gray.
The Herd opens Conference USA play on Sept. 30 against first-year conference member New Mexico. The Lobos advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season and finished with a 17-4-1 record and achieved a No. 9 national ranking towards the end of the season. It will be the first meeting since 2002, a match the Lobos won 3-0 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Marshall then travels to the beaches of Florida for matches against FIU (Oct. 6) and new C-USA member Florida Atlantic (Oct. 9). The Panthers finished winless in the conference and 8-8-2 overall last season. The Owls finished 2-13-1 overall in their final year in Mid-American Conference.
The Herd will take a break from C-USA play on Oct. 15 with a match at 2012 NCAA Semifinalist Maryland. The Terrapins, which went 20-1-3, have faced the Herd twice, winning both meetings in 1999 and 2004.
Marshall resumes C-USA action at home against South Carolina (Oct. 19), before traveling to new C-USA member Old Dominion (Oct. 23), which was ranked in the top 25 last season and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Three of Marshall's final four matches will be played at home with Tulsa (Oct. 26), Kentucky (Oct. 30) and senior night against UAB (Nov. 8). All three of those teams had winning records last season with Tulsa and Kentucky earning spots in the top 25. Prior to the meeting with the Blazers, the Herd will play at new C-USA member Charlotte on Nov. 2. The 49ers were ranked 23rd in the country when their season ended in the NCAA's third round with a loss to runner-up Georgetown and finished with a 15-4-3 record.
2012 NCAA Tournament Teams (9)
Akron (Exh.), Charlotte, Cleveland State, Kentucky, New Mexico, Old Dominion, Maryland, Tulsa, UAB
Teams Ranked in the Final NCAA Top 25 in 2012 (6)
No. 3 Maryland, No. 7 Akron (Exh.), No. 10 New Mexico, No. 14 Tulsa, No. 23 Charlotte, (RV) Old Dominion
Teams Ranked in the Final Top Drawer Soccer Top 48 in 2012 (9)
No. 3 Maryland, No. 9 Akron, No. 11 New Mexico, No. 12 Tulsa, No. 25 Charlotte, No. 36 Old Dominion, No. 39 UAB, No. 42 Kentucky, No. 46 Cleveland State