GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's soccer team will play a 16-match regular-season schedule during the 2019 season, head coach Allen Vital has announced. (2019 Schedule)
The Pioneers, who won their third South Atlantic Conference Championship tournament title in the last five years in 2018, will play 10 conference matches and six non-conference contests, split evenly between eight home and eight road matches. Three NCAA Division II Tournament qualifiers are on the schedule, including rematches with Queens and Young Harris who the Pioneers faced in the 2018 tournament.
Tusculum overcame an early-season five-match losing streak to finish third in the South Atlantic Conference with a 6-3-1 record. The Pioneers then defeated Wingate (3-1), Carson-Newman (2-0) and Anderson (2-1) to earn their SAC-record seventh tournament championship. In the NCAA Tournament, the Pioneers beat Queens 3-2 in the first round before falling to top-ranked Young Harris 2-1 in a hard-fought second-round match to finish the year at 13-7-1.
The Pioneers will open their season at home with Milligan on Wednesday, Sept. 4. The Buffs went 7-8-2 last season and finished tied for seventh place at 3-5-2 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. The matchup will be the first meeting between the local rivals since 2015, in a series that the Pioneers have controlled with 17 straight wins.
Tusculum's first away match will be Saturday, Sept. 7 at Emmanuel. The Lions compiled an 8-9-1 record last season and tied for seventh place in Conference Carolinas at 4-5-1. Emmanuel upset Belmont Abbey 1-0 in the conference quarterfinals before falling 3-1 to Chowan in the semifinals. The Pioneers beat the Lions 1-0 last season in the first-ever meeting between the schools, on a goal in the 18th minute by Oscar Rubio Jimenez.
On Wednesday, Sept. 11 the Pioneers will visit Young Harris in a rematch of last year's NCAA second-round contest won by the Mountain Lions. Young Harris would take its only loss of the season in the region championship match a week later to Lander, who also gave Young Harris its only draw of the year with a 0-0 deadlock in the Peach Belt Conference finals, which was on by the Mountain Lions on penalties.
Young Harris finished 17-1-1 overall last year and 7-0-0 in the Peach Belt Conference regular season, reaching number one in the United Soccer Coaches Division II poll before finishing the year ranked seventh. The Mountain Lions also beat the Pioneers 4-0 in their regular-season meeting in Greeneville and have three wins and two draws in five all-time meetings with Tusculum.
Following a weekend off, the Pioneers return to the road with a short trip to Bristol to face King. The Tornado compiled a 7-9-1 record last season and went 5-5 in Conference Carolinas play, putting KU in sole possession of fourth place and leading to a trip to the league semifinals. Tusculum beat King 3-0 at home last season and is 18-8-3 all-time, with a streak of 10 straight without a loss (7-0-3) since 2001.
Tusculum will open its SAC schedule at Lenoir-Rhyne on Saturday, Sept. 21. The Bears shared the SAC regular-season championship with Queens at 7-3-0, and finished at 11-6-0 overall following a loss to Anderson in the conference semifinals. Tusculum beat Lenoir-Rhyne 2-1 in overtime last October on a goal by Shawn Foster, and the Pioneers lead the series with the Bears 18-10-3.
The Pioneers will dip back outside the SAC on Wednesday, Sept. 25 as they host Lees-McRae in their first home match in three weeks. The Bobcats claimed fifth place in Conference Carolinas with a 4-4-2 record and turned in a winning record in 2018 with a final slate of 8-7-2. Lees-McRae rallied to stun Tusculum 4-3 at home last year for their second straight win over the Pioneers, though the Bobcats still trail the all-time series 14-6-1.
Next is a road trip to Newberry on Saturday, Sept. 28. The Wolves narrowly missed a spot in the SAC Championship Tournament as they finished ninth overall with a 2-5-3 league record and a 3-10-4 overall mark. The Pioneers extended their all-time record against Newberry to 17-0-3 with a 2-0 win at home last fall.
The month of October begins with the Pioneers visiting Queens on Wednesday, Oct. 2. The Royals shared the SAC Championship with Lenoir-Rhyne at 7-3-0 in the conference, and turned in an overall record of 10-6-1 which included a 3-2 win at Tusculum on Sept. 12 in the conference opener. After being upset by Carson-Newman in the SAC quarterfinals, the Royals earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament where they lost to the Pioneers 3-2 in a first-round matchup. The split of last year's meetings left the Pioneers with a 6-3 edge in the all-time series with Queens.
The second half of the regular-season schedule starts on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Pioneer Field against Anderson in a rematch of last year's SAC Tournament championship match. The Trojans tied for fourth place in the conference with a 5-2-3 record and beat Lincoln Memorial and Lenoir-Rhyne to advance to the league finals, where they lost 2-1 to the Pioneers.
Anderson grabbed an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and upset Limestone 3-2 in overtime in the first round before falling 1-0 to Lander in double overtime in the second round, to finish with a record of 11-6-3. The Trojans and Pioneers played to a scoreless draw last year, the first ever in a series that Tusculum leads 7-6-1.
The final non-conference match of the season is at home on Wednesday, Oct. 9 against Shaw. The meeting will be the first-ever between the Pioneers and Bears, who finished with a 7-8-1 record while playing an independent schedule.
Tusculum's home-stand continues on Sunday, Oct. 13 against Wingate. The Bulldogs finished in a tie for fourth place in the conference with a 6-4-0 record during the regular season, then fell 3-1 to the Pioneers in the conference quarterfinals at Pioneer Field to finish at 8-6-1 overall. Wingate beat Tusculum 1-0 in their regular-season meeting and has a 14-12-0 edge in the all-time series.
The Pioneers close their four-match home-stand on Wednesday, Oct. 16 against Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters shared fourth place with Anderson and Wingate with a 5-2-3 record in conference matches, and ended up 8-4-4 overall following a SAC quarterfinal loss to Anderson. LMU gave Tusculum its only loss in a stretch of 13 matches with a 2-1 victory at home, which extended the Railsplitters' edge in the all-time series to 13-11-6.
Tusculum visits Catawba on Saturday, Oct. 19 for a matchup with an Indians squad that ended up winless in 10 SAC matches and 3-12-0 overall last year. The Pioneers blanked the Indians 4-0 at home last year to boost their all-time record against Catawba to 15-11-1.
A week-long break precedes a home contest with Coker on Sunday, Oct. 27. The Cobras snagged the eighth and final berth in the SAC Championship tournament with a 3-6-1 league record, and lost to Lenoir-Rhyne in the quarterfinals to end the year at 5-10-1. The Pioneers routed the Cobras 6-0 on the road last season to move ahead 4-3-0 in the series.
The final road trip of the regular season sends the Pioneers over the mountain to square off with Mars Hill. The Lions ended up 2-6-2 in the SAC for a 10th-place finish and were 6-7-2 overall last year, including a 2-0 loss at Tusculum which gave the Pioneers a 15-9-4 lead in the all-time series, including four wins and two ties in their last six matchups.
Tusculum will finish the regular season against rival Carson-Newman for the first time since 1998, the year before the Pioneers joined the South Atlantic Conference, on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Pioneer Field. The Eagles were seventh in the SAC at 4-3-3 in conference games, then upset Queens 2-1 in the quarterfinals before falling 2-0 to Tusculum in the SAC semifinals to finish 9-5-3 overall. The Pioneers beat the Eagles 1-0 in Jefferson City and now hold a 17-13-5 lead in the series.
Due to the NCAA pushing the date of the Final Four to two weeks after Thanksgiving, the end of the regular season and the SAC Championship Tournament have been extended. The SAC quarterfinal matches will be hosted by the higher seeds on Saturday, Nov. 9 with the semifinals and finals to be held Nov. 15 and 17 at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews, North Carolina.
The NCAA Tournament selections will be announced Monday, Nov. 18 with first and second round matches on Nov. 21 and 23 or Nov. 22 and 24. The third round and quarterfinals will be held Dec. 5 and 7 or Dec. 6 and 8, with the semifinals and national championship to be played in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Dec. 12 and 14.