COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With the 2013 season just around the corner, it appears that the most familiar aspect of the Tennessee Tech soccer team will be its schedule. Fifteen of the Golden Eagles' 2012 opponents return to face off against Tech again this season, including 10 matches against Ohio Valley Conference opponents and three against non-conference, in-state rivals.
The 2013 roster boasts 10 new faces as this year's crop of freshmen looks to make an immediate impact on the Golden Eagle club. With just 19 regular season matches and one exhibition match, there will be a steep learning curve for the young Tech squad, but head coach Daniel Brizard remains confident heading into the new season.
"We have a talented incoming class that we feel will help us in all areas," said Brizard, "as well as a returning class that has experience and the leadership to help us make significant strides in 2013. Every single match this year is going to be competitive, but winnable. It is all going to depend on how we prepare and compete for each match."
Much like the 2012 season, this year's Golden Eagle club will start the year with a trip to Athens, Tenn. for an exhibition match with Tennessee Wesleyan. Tech rolled in last season's match-up, defeating the Bulldogs 8-0 behind a balanced attack.
For just the third time in program history, the Golden Eagles will play their regular season opener at a neutral site, facing off against Kennesaw State in Knoxville on Aug. 23. The match will mark the third time the two clubs have met and the first time at a neutral location.
Tech will then play two straight contests at home, hosting Evansville (Aug. 25) and Alabama State (Aug. 30) to close out the first month of the season. The Purple Aces will be one of just three first-time opponents for the Golden Eagles this season, while the match against ASU is only the second meeting in school history.
"We open with two early tests in Kennesaw State and Evansville," said Brizard. "Both matches will provide us with an early measure of where our team is at that moment and what we will need to do to further our success as the OVC season approaches."
Starting on Sept. 1, Tech will hit the road for four consecutive matches, including two against first-time opponents. The Golden Eagles will first head to Northern Kentucky after meeting for the first time in 2012. On Sept. 6, Tech will play the program's first-ever match in Findlay, Ohio against the Findlay Oilers.
The next stop on the road swing will be the inaugural match at Ball State on Sept. 8, pitting the Golden Eagles against a Mid-American Conference squad for just the third time in school history. Tech will wrap up its time away from Cookeville with a road match against in-state rival Middle Tennessee on Sept. 15.
On Sept. 20, the Golden Eagles will host their only match of the month as in-state rival Chattanooga will look to exact some revenge after its 2-0 loss to Tech last season. The final non-conference game of the season sends the Golden Eagles back on the road as they head to Johnson City, Tenn. for a match against East Tennessee State on Sept. 22.
"As the back end of our non-conference schedule approaches, we will play a trio of in state rivals," said Brizard. "ETSU, MTSU, and UTC are matches that we hope will act as a springboard into our conference schedule."
Opening the OVC schedule is a trip to the Land of Lincoln as Tech will face off against SIU Edwardsville (Sept. 27) and Eastern Illinois (Sept. 29) to close the month of September.
The month of October will see the Golden Eagles at home almost twice as much as the rest of the season as Tech will play host to five OVC opponents, including Austin Peay (Oct. 4), Murray State (Oct. 6), the reigning OVC champs in UT Martin (Oct. 18), Morehead State (Oct. 25), and Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 27). The Golden Eagles will hit the road for matches against Jacksonville State (Oct. 13) and Southeast Missouri (Oct. 20).
Closing out the regular season schedule is the lone match scheduled for the month of November as the Golden Eagles will head to Nashville for a Nov. 1 contest against Belmont. Tech will look to come out on top, after falling in last season's overtime thriller in Cookeville, and wrap up what is sure to be a grueling conference schedule.
"As always the OVC will be competitive and we are certain that the matches will provide us with a tough test," said Brizard, "and we look forward to rising to the challenge. All in all, we are confident that this year's team will be competitive, espically when you combine the incoming talent and the experience and drive of the returning class."