GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum men's soccer team has released its 2018 schedule, according to head coach Allen Vital.
The Pioneers are preparing for a 16-game schedule which will begin with a home match against Emmanuel on Friday, August 31 at Pioneer Field. Tusculum will split its contests between home and away (eight each), in a season that will see the Pioneers face six non-conference opponents to go along with a 10-game South Atlantic Conference slate.
Vital begins his eighth season at his alma mater coming off a 2017 campaign that saw his team struggle to find offense while playing airtight defense. The Pioneers had just two victories, but played to a school-record six draws and trailed by more than one goal for just 47 minutes, 41 seconds out of the 1565 minutes, 50 seconds played during the year.
Just one opponent is new on the 2018 Tusculum schedule, which is Emmanuel. The Lions are in their first season as a full member of NCAA Division II and finished 6-7-3 overall last year, while taking sixth place in Conference Carolinas with a 4-4-2 mark.
The Pioneers continue their stretch of three straight home matches to start the season when they host King on Sunday, Sept. 2. The Tornado limped to a 5-9-2 finish last season and went 1-8-1 in Conference Carolinas, placing them in a tie for 10th place. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in Bristol last season, leaving the Pioneers with a 17-8-3 edge in the all-time series.
The first of five teams to qualify for last year's NCAA Division II Tournament on this year's Tusculum schedule is Young Harris on Wednesday, Sept. 5. The Mountain Lions finished second in the Peach Belt Conference with a 5-1-1 league record, but earned an NCAA bid and advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Lynn in the quarterfinals. Last year's meeting came with Young Harris ranked 11th in the nation and resulted in a 1-1 tie, the second deadlock in three all-time meetings.
Tusculum heads to the road for the first time in 2018 when the Pioneers visit Lander on Saturday, Sept. 8. The Bearcats won the Peach Belt Conference regular-season and tournament championships, beating North Georgia in penalty kicks to win the postseason title. Lander then advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to conference rival Young Harris in overtime to finish with a 13-4-3 record. The Bearcats defeated the Pioneers 1-0 last season, which evened the all-time series at four wins apiece with one tie.
The Pioneers open conference action on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at home against Queens. The Royals finished in seventh place in the SAC with a 3-4-3 record last season, but defeated Carson-Newman and Anderson to advance to the SAC Championship finals. Queens lost in double overtime to Wingate to finish with an overall record of 9-6-4. The Pioneers lost at the Royals 4-3 in overtime in last year's meeting, but still lead the all-time series by a 5-2 margin.
On Sunday, Sept. 16 the Pioneers will host Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears tied for second place in the SAC at 6-2-2 but were eliminated in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament. Despite the early exit, Lenoir-Rhyne earned an NCAA Tournament berth and fell to Young Harris in the opening round to finish with a record of 10-4-3. The Bears were ranked fifth when they beat the Pioneers 2-1 in September of last season, but Tusculum still holds a 17-10-3 edge in the all-time series.
Tusculum closes out the first half of its schedule with back-to-back trips to North Carolina, beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 19 with a non-conference match at Lees-McRae. The Bobcats turned in a solid 11-5-3 record last year, placing second in Conference Carolinas with a 7-3 mark before losing in the league semifinals to Mount Olive. The Bobcats handed the Pioneers their most-lopsided loss of the 2017 season, winning 3-0 at Pioneer Field. Despite the setback, the Pioneers continue to lead the all-time series over the Bobcats by a 14-5-1 margin.
On Saturday, Sept. 22 the Pioneers visit Wingate for a renewal of their rivalry with the Bulldogs. Wingate won the SAC regular season and postseason championships last year, placing first in the league with an 8-1-1 record and winning the SAC Championship title with a 2-1 win in double overtime against Queens. Wingate, the 2016 NCAA Division II champion, was knocked out by Lander in penalty kicks in its tournament opener, finishing the year with a 14-4-2 record. The Bulldogs defeated the Pioneers 2-1 in the regular-season finale last year, leaving Tusculum with a 13-11 all-time lead in the series.
Tusculum will then take a week off before resuming its schedule on Saturday, Sept. 29 at home against Catawba. The Indians finished last in the SAC a year ago with a 1-7-2 conference record and a 2-11-2 overall mark. The Pioneers beat the Indians 3-1 on the road last October, widening its lead in the all-time series to 14-11-1.
The Pioneers will play five of their seven October matches on the road, starting on Wednesday, Oct. 3 with a visit to longtime rival Carson-Newman. The Eagles tied for second in the SAC last season with a 6-2-2 record, but were bounced from the SAC Tournament in the quarterfinal round by Queens in overtime to finish at 9-7-2 overall. The teams played to a 2-2 tie in Greeneville last season, the fifth draw all-time between the schools in a series that Tusculum leads 15 wins to 13.
Tusculum will be back home to square off with Newberry on Saturday, Oct. 6. The Wolves eked out the eighth and final spot in the SAC Championship tournament after finishing 3-6-1 in the conference, then lost to Wingate in the quarterfinals to finish with a 5-9-3 overall record. The Pioneers and Wolves played to a 1-1 draw last season at Newberry, but Tusculum remains unbeaten in 19 all-time meetings with 16 victories and three draws.
Another week-long break will precede the Pioneers' visit to Anderson on Saturday, Oct. 13. The Trojans placed sixth in the SAC last season with a 4-5-1 conference record, then beat Lenoir-Rhyne in the SAC Championship quarterfinals before falling 2-0 to Queens in the semifinals. Tusculum shut out Anderson 2-0 last season, which evened the all-time series at six wins apiece.
Tusculum will visit Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, Oct. 17. The Railsplitters finished fourth in the SAC last season after going 4-3-3 in league play, then defeated Mars Hill 3-1 in the SAC Championship quarterfinals before a 3-0 loss to Wingate in the semifinals. Despite their fourth-place standing, LMU earned an NCAA Tournament bid and lost 1-0 to Lander in the opening round to finish the season with a record of 10-5-3. The Railsplitters were ranked 13th when they played to a scoreless draw with the Pioneers early last season, which left LMU with a slim 12-11-6 lead in the all-time series.
Mars Hill will be the final regular season opponent at Pioneer Field, visiting on Saturday, Oct. 20. The Lions snagged fifth place in the conference with a 4-4-2 league mark, and lost 3-1 to Lincoln Memorial in the SAC quarterfinals to end the season with a 5-8-2 record. The Pioneers and Lions dueled to a 1-1 draw last season at Mars Hill, as Tusculum holds a 14-9-4 lead in the all-time series between the schools.
The final week of the regular season begins with a non-conference road match at Lee on Wednesday, Oct. 24. The Flames finished eighth in the Gulf South Conference with a 4-5-2 league record, and went 6-6-4 overall last season. Lee defeated Tusculum 1-0 in the final week of last season at Pioneer Field, which leveled the all-time series at six victories apiece.
Tusculum closes the regular season at Coker on Saturday, Oct. 27. The Cobras were denied a SAC Tournament berth on a tiebreaker, finishing tied for eighth with a 3-6-1 record last season and a 5-8-1 overall mark. The Cobras downed the Pioneers 3-1 last season, becoming the only conference opponent to lead the Pioneers by more than one goal at any point in a match last season. Since Coker joined the SAC for the 2013 season, the teams have split six meetings.
The top eight teams in the regular-season standings will qualify for the SAC Championship tournament, which begins on Tuesday, Oct. 30 with quarterfinal matchups at campus sites. The four remaining teams will meet in the semifinals at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, South Carolina on Friday, Nov. 2 with the championship match on Sunday, Nov. 4.
The NCAA Division II Men's Soccer Championship will begin with first and second-round action on November 9 and 11, followed by third round and quarterfinal contests from November 15-18. The semifinals will be on Thursday, November 29 and the championship on Saturday, December 1, both in Pittsburgh.