FORT MYLERS, Fla. – On the heels of posting its third straight season of double figure wins and finishing in third place in the Atlantic Sun standings, the FGCU women’s soccer team released its 2010 schedule on Monday.
Led by fourth-year head coach Jim Blankenship, the Eagles’ eight-game non-conference schedule is highlighted by hosting the Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic on Friday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 5 at the FGCU Soccer Complex. Joining the Eagles in the four-team tournament will be SEC member Arkansas, ACC and in-state foe Miami and Kent State from the MAC.
The Atlantic Sun Conference portion of the schedule will bring four of the six qualifying teams from the 2009 Conference Tournament to Fort Myers, Fla. where FGCU went 6-1-2 last season. FGCU posted a conference-best 11 wins last season, including a 6-2-2 mark in A-Sun action. The Eagles return 22 players from last year’s club that finished just one point shy of a regular season crown, closed on a three-game win streak, posted nine shutouts and led the A-Sun with just 14 goals against.
“The non-conference portion of our schedule is meant to challenge us and prepare us for the trials of conference play,” said Blankenship, who has guided the Eagles to 32 wins in the first three years of the program’s existence. “We feel that this schedule will do that and make us become a better team right away.”
FGCU officially opens the season at home on Friday, August 20, at 7 p.m. against Barry University. The Eagles will enjoy a five-day break before heading to Miami to take on 2009 Sun Belt Conference regular season champ Florida International on Thursday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. The game will mark the fourth consecutive year that the two teams have met, with FGCU holding a 2-0-1 record against the Golden Panthers. Last year’s meeting in Miami ended in a 0-0 draw.
A home contest three days later against Delaware State on Sunday, Aug. 29, proceeds FGCU’s second-ever meeting against Miami (Aug. 31) to close the opening month of the season. The Eagles will look for revenge against the Hurricanes after losing last year in Coral Gables.
September opens with the Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic, a two-day tournament that will be hosted at the FGCU Soccer Complex. The first day of the tournament on Friday, Sept. 3, will feature a 4:30 p.m. matchup between Miami and Arkansas followed by the Eagles’ clash against Kent State at 7 p.m. Kent State qualified for the MAC Tournament in 2009 and posted an 8-9-2 record. Day two of the tournament on Sunday, Sept. 5, will begin with Miami taking on Kent State at 11 a.m. and conclude with FGCU hosting the Razorbacks at 1 p.m. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams and mark the second straight year the Eagles have taken on a member of the SEC. FGCU took on Mississippi State at the North Florida Tournament in 2009.
Five consecutive road contests close out September, beginning with a trip to West Point, N.Y. for the Black Knight Classic hosted by Army. The Eagles open the tournament on Friday, Sept. 10, at 4:30 p.m. against Patriot League member Vermont before squaring off against Marist on Sunday, Sept. 12. Marist returns eight starters from last year’s club that advanced to the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament.
FGCU begins A-Sun action with three straight road games, opening with a weekend trip to Jacksonville. The Eagles will begin by taking on Jacksonville on Friday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. and then will stay in town to take on North Florida on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 1 p.m. Jacksonville earned the No. 4 seed in last year’s A-Sun Tournament and had just one loss in conference play, but was hampered by four ties. FGCU earned ties against both clubs last year at home.
The Eagles will put an end to their season-long five-game road trip and the month of September when they travel to North Carolina to take on Campbell. The Camels handed FGCU its only home loss of the season in 2009 and were the No. 6 seed in the postseason tournament.
FGCU’s return home comes in the form of a pair of huge A-Sun contests against Mercer (Oct. 1) and defending regular season and tournament champ Kennesaw State (Oct. 3). The Eagles defeated Mercer, 2-1, last season in Georgia. FGCU is 2-0-1 all-time against the Bears, who earned the No. 5 seed in last year’s A-Sun Tournament. Kennesaw State will enter FGCU soccer complex two days later with the all-time series tied at 1-1-1. The Eagles handed the Owls their only home conference loss of the season in 2009 and were one of just three teams to shut them out.
A two-game road trip to East Tennessee State (Oct. 8) and USC Upstate (Oct. 10) closes out FGCU’s road schedule for 2010. The Eagles broke a two-game losing streak to ETSU last season with a 3-0 win at home. FGCU is 3-0 all-time against USC Upstate with a 15-0 scoring margin against the Spartans.
The Eagles will get the luxury of hosting their final three games of the regular season at the FGCU Soccer Complex. The homestand will begin with a 7 p.m. showdown against Belmont on Friday, Oct. 15. The Bruins advanced to the A-Sun title game in 2009 and finishes second in the regular season standings (6-1-3). Two days later, the Eagles will welcome in a Lipscomb squad that they hold an unbeaten 2-0-1 record against.
The season will conclude on Saturday, Oct. 23, when FGCU welcomes in Stetson during the final weekend of A-Sun action. Last season, the Eagles picked up their second straight win against Stetson with a 2-1 victory in Deland, Fla. The Hatters equaled FGCU for the conference lead with 11 wins in 2009.
“We’ve been fortunate to be around the top of the A-Sun standings in each of our three years and those expectations don’t change,” Blankenship said. “We have a great group of seven seniors that have seen what this conference has to offer and they can help guide our younger players. We expect to challenge for a regular season crown and I know this group of returners has their sights set on that goal.”
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 Oct. 30-Nov. 6 at host sites of the higher-seed.
The Eagles will be led by their seven-member senior class in 2009. All seven members of the senior class were a part of the inaugural team in 2007 and have compiled a record of 32-16-6 over their first three years.