ANDERSON, S.C. – After a 12-win 2013 season which sealed a spot into the 2013 NCAA Division II Tournament, Anderson University men’s soccer first-year head coach Michael Zion has announced his 2014 schedule that features eight home matches, highlighted by the home opener against archrival Erskine to kick off the run towards the Beville Cup.
Including 11 SAC matchups on tap, the Trojans will face a difficult nonconference schedule with three Peach Belt Conference teams, headlined by last year’s regular season champion Young Harris, which went a perfect 9-0 in PBC matches in 2013. AU will also link up with PBC power Flagler, which finished 5-2-2 in league play and joined Anderson in the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Trojans begin their 2014 campaign on Sept. 4 in Florida as they open against Sunshine State Conference power Rollins which ended 2013 with a 17-3 record and a 7-1 mark in conference action. The Tars advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before they were eliminated by eventual national runner-up, Carson-Newman, 2-1. Following the non-regional match, AU heads north to square off against Flagler on Sept. 6.
“The first weekend will be very tough,” Zion said. “I think (Rollins) will be nationally ranked when we open with them, so that will be a tough road game for us. Flagler will also be tough, but if we can go down there and get a result that will very good.”
On Sept. 13, the Trojans begin their South Atlantic Conference schedule with a trip to Catawba for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The meeting will mark the third straight season AU and the Indians have opened SAC play with the Black and Gold earning a 3-1 victory at Trojan Stadium a year ago.
Following the rivalry match and the home opener against Erskine on Sept. 17, Anderson hits the road once again when it faces Coker on Sept. 20 in Hartsville. The Cobras finished 6-4-1 in their first season as SAC members in 2013, claiming their first SAC win in program history over the Trojans on Sept. 21, 2013.
“We get Erskine coming to our place this season and I think that is going to be a very exciting,” Zion said. “I think with the way the match went last year, they’re going to want to come back and get a result against us.”
Anderson returns to the Upstate for a pair of conference matchups, beginning with a rematch of last year’s SAC Tournament championship match against Queens on Sept. 24. The Royals bested the Trojans twice last season, including a 2-0 setback in the SAC title game, snapping a consecutive tournament championship streak of three set by Anderson. The two-match home stretch concludes with a meeting with Mars Hill on Sept. 27.
“With Queens being the team that won the conference last year, them coming here will be big for us,” Zion added. “They beat us twice last season, once in the regular season and once in the conference tournament championship so I think all of our guys have that game circled. We certainly want to get some respect back.”
As the Trojans bring in October, they return to their nonconference slate with a trip to Young Harris. Last season, Anderson handed YHC one of its two losses on the season, as the Trojans claimed a 2-1 double-overtime win over the Lions on Sept. 11, 2013 at Trojan Stadium. Despite the setback, Young Harris finished the year with a 16-2 record and ranked No. 11 nationally in the NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Poll.
“Young Harris will be in the Top 25 when we play them,” Zion said. “I expect them to be very good and I think this will be a huge game for us.”
A trio of SAC matches await the Trojans as they play two of the next three at home. The stretch begins with a home match against Tusculum on Oct. 4, followed by a road contest at in-state rival, Newberry on Oct. 8. Anderson defeated both teams a year ago by a goal differential. AU closes the conference streak returning to Trojan Stadium on Oct. 10 against Lenoir-Rhyne.
Anderson remains in the Upstate on Oct. 14 when it hosts its final match against a Conference Carolinas opponent in Mount Olive. The Trojans cruised past UMO 5-1 a season ago for their second win of a four-match winning streak to begin the year.
After a road match with Lincoln Memorial on Oct. 18, AU closes its home slate with back-to-back SAC matches against Brevard (Oct. 22) and Wingate (Oct. 25). The Trojans will look to avenge a road setback to the Tornados a year ago, while WU seeks redemption against the Black and Gold as Anderson eliminated the Bulldogs from the postseason with a 1-0 win in the opening round of the SAC Tournament.
“If we had to play Wingate anywhere, I’d rather play them at home,” Zion said. “Wingate has been one of the strongest teams in the conference every year, but I’m happy we have them at home, especially towards the end of the season. That will be a tough test for us.”
Before rounding out their 2014 schedule, the Trojans will have two critical road tests, beginning with a meeting with Peach Belt opponent, Francis Marion, on Oct. 29. AU knocked off the Patriots at home in 2013, as a 65th minute goal from Bernd Muxel provided the difference, sealing an unbeaten 4-0-1 record against PBC teams.
“We won an important game against (Francis Marion) last season, which could have decided who would have been in the NCAA Tournament,” Zion said. “If they would have beaten us, I think they would have gone in. That game will be big, especially for postseason placement.”
For the second straight season, Anderson ends its regular season against Carson-Newman on Nov. 1, which knocked AU out of the NCAA Tournament a year ago and eventually advanced to the National Championship match. In both contests in 2013, the Trojans fell to the Eagles 3-2 with last year’s regular season finale needing extra time.
“If there is any game I wanted to end with, it’s this one,” Zion added. “I hope they come in as high as they are ranked right now to give us a great opportunity to make a last impact and maybe get ourselves into an NCAA spot.”
The SAC Tournament is scheduled for Nov. 4-9 with the opening rounds taking place at the higher seeds. The semifinals and finals will be held at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, S.C.
“This season’s schedule is very tough,” Zion said. “But I think we have the returning players and the talent to be able to handle it.”