GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- A daunting travel slate dominates the 2019 Tusculum University women's soccer schedule, which has been released by head coach Mike Joy. (2019 schedule)
Tusculum will be on the road for 11 of their 17 matches and will face six teams that appeared in the 2018 NCAA Division II Tournament. The Pioneers turned in another winning record in 2018, finishing 8-7-3 overall and in sixth place in the South Atlantic Conference for Joy, whose 355 career wins are third-most among active Division II coaches and fifth-most all-time.
The Pioneers will travel more than 4,000 miles before stepping onto their home field for the first time in 2019 against Anderson on Sunday, Oct. 6. The season-opening stretch of nine matches away from home includes contests in six different states, against three of the six 2018 NCAA Division II Tournament qualifiers that dot the Pioneers' slate of 17 matches.
"This year's schedule is a bit by design, as we are targeting 2020 for our Hawaii preseason trip. Having home-and-home contracts will allow us to have mainly a home schedule next season," said Joy, who is the winningest coach in SAC history with 246 of his 269 Tusculum wins coming since the Pioneers joined the conference in 1999. "We are young this year, with only a couple of seniors and 15 freshmen who will get a taste of what NCAA Division II soccer is all about. Hopefully, the road trips will allow them to better bond as a class and as a unit."
Tusculum kicks off the 2019 season at Bellarmine on Saturday, Sept. 7 for their first-ever meeting with the Knights. Bellarmine finished 11-6-3 overall last year and took fifth place in the Great Lakes Valley Conference with a 7-3-3 record, then advanced to the GLVC finals before losing 1-0 in overtime to Rockhurst.
The Pioneers will visit Young Harris on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The Mountain Lions were 6-9-1 overall in 2018 and took sixth place in the Peach Belt Conference with a 4-6-0 mark. Young Harris advanced to the league semifinals where they were eliminated in overtime by Georgia College by a 2-1 score. The Pioneers' only other meeting with the Mountain Lions came in 2011, ending in a 2-2 draw.
Tusculum will then journey to Florida for the second consecutive year, with matchups against Barry on Friday, Sept. 13 and Nova Southeastern on Sunday, Sept. 15.
The Buccaneers claimed the top seed in the Sunshine State Conference tournament after completing the regular season with a 9-0-1 record, then beat Nova 6-0 in the championship match. However, the Buccaneers were upset 2-1 by Mississippi College in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to finish the year at 16-1-1. Tusculum has played Barry twice previously, losing on the road in 1992 and at home in 1993.
The Sharks ended the year with a 13-7-1 record and took second place to Barry in the SSC with a record of 7-2-1. After falling to the Buccaneers in the conference finals, Nova lost 3-0 to Mississippi College in the NCAA First Round to end the year at 13-7-1. Tusculum upset 23rd-ranked NSU 3-2 in the season opener in 2018 to level the all-time series at two wins apiece.
After returning from Florida, the Pioneers will make their shortest road trip of September with a quick visit to Lees-McRae on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The Bobcats failed to qualify for the Conference Carolinas tournament after finishing 10th with a 3-8 league record and 3-13-0 overall. The Pioneers beat the Bobcats 4-0 on the road last Sept. 19 but still trail the all-time series seven wins to five.
Tusculum opens its SAC regular-season schedule on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears tied for second place in the conference with a 7-3 record before losing to Lincoln Memorial in the semifinals to end the year at 11-6-1. The Pioneers faced the Bears twice last season, losing 3-1 at home in the regular season matchup on Sept. 26 and 1-0 on the road in the SAC Championship quarterfinals. L-R has a 16-12-3 edge in the all-time series.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25 the Pioneers will step back out of the conference schedule for their first contest with Lee since 1997. The Flames turned in a Cinderella run to the Division II Final Four last season, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team after going 9-4-0 in the Gulf South Conference and losing to Montevallo in the league semifinals. The Flames beat Rollins, West Florida, Mississippi College and Columbus State to advance to the national semifinals, where the run ended with a 3-0 loss to Grand Valley State for a final record of 17-7-1. The Pioneers lead the all-time series 5-3, with all eight meetings between 1992 and 1997.
The month of September will come to an end on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Newberry. The Wolves missed the SAC tournament as they finished in ninth place at 2-7-1 in the league and 7-9-1 overall. Tusculum and Newberry played to a 1-1 draw last Oct. 6, and the Pioneers are unbeaten in their last five meetings (three wins, two ties) and 19-2-4 all-time against the Wolves.
The last of the Pioneers' nine straight road matches is at Queens on Wednesday, Oct. 2. The Royals tied for seventh place in the SAC at 4-5-1 and ended the year at 8-7-1 after a 2-1 overtime loss to Lincoln Memorial in the quarterfinal round. The Pioneers edged the Royals 2-1 in their regular-season meeting on Sept. 12 and own a 6-3-1 lead in the all-time series.
Pioneer Field will host the first women's soccer game of the season on Sunday, Oct. 6 as Anderson pays a visit. The Trojans placed fourth in the SAC at 6-3-1 last year and were 7-8-1 overall following a 1-0 loss to Catawba in the league quarterfinals. The Pioneers and Trojans played to a 1-1 tie last year, the fourth in a series that has seen Tusculum win six times and Anderson four times.
Tusculum's four-game home stand continues on Wednesday, Oct. 9 with their final non-conference game of the year against Shaw. The Bears improved from 4-10-1 in their inaugural season to 12-4-0 last year, including a 2-3 mark against SAC opponents. Tusculum beat Shaw 2-0 in the first-ever meeting between the schools exactly one year prior to this season's meeting.
The Pioneers welcome Wingate for a match on Sunday, Oct. 13. The Bulldogs tied for seventh place in the league at 4-5-1 and were bounced 4-1 by Carson-Newman in the SAC quarterfinals to end the year at 7-7-2. Tusculum lost 2-0 at Wingate on Sept. 22 of last year, the Bulldogs' third straight win over the Pioneers and sixth in a row without a loss which has leveled the all-time series at 12 wins apiece and three ties.
The homestand concludes on Wednesday, Oct. 16 with a visit from defending SAC Championship tournament winner Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters shared second place with Lenoir-Rhyne at 7-3-0, then beat Queens, Lenoir-Rhyne and Carson-Newman to claim their first league title since 2007. LMU then beat Lander and Carson-Newman in penalty kicks in the NCAA Tournament before a 3-2 overtime loss to Columbus State in the region final brought the Railsplitters' season to an end at 14-5-2.
Tusculum was able to earn its third straight win over Lincoln Memorial with a 1-0 overtime victory on the road on Oct. 17 of last year. The Pioneers hold a 16-8-3 advantage in the all-time series with the Railsplitters.
Another NCAA qualifier awaits the Pioneers when they return to the road on Saturday, Oct. 19 for a visit to Catawba. The Indians were just 6-4 and finished fifth in the SAC during the regular season, but were able to parlay a trip to the SAC semifinals into an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Catawba lost to Carson-Newman 3-0 in the opening round of the NCAAs to end the year at 13-6-0. Tusculum beat Catawba 3-1 at home last Sept. 29, which was their fourth straight win over the Indians and gave the Pioneers a 10-9-4 edge all-time.
Following a week break, the Pioneers are back home on Sunday, Oct. 27 against Coker. The Cobras endured a winless season in 2018, losing all 10 of their conference games and all 13 overall. The Pioneers beat the Cobras 4-1 on the road one year earlier to the day, which extended Tusculum's lead in the all-time series to 6-2.
The final road trip of the regular season is a visit to cross-mountain rival Mars Hill on Friday, Nov. 1. The Lions were 3-12-0 overall and 2-8-0 in the SAC for a 10th-place finish in the conference. One of those wins was a 2-1 overtime victory at Pioneer Field on Oct. 20 that snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Pioneers. Tusculum has a 23-6-0 lead in the all-time series with Mars Hill.
Tusculum will wrap up the regular season at home against Carson-Newman on Wednesday, Nov. 6. The Eagles won the outright SAC regular-season championship with a 9-1-0 league record, but lost to Lincoln Memorial 3-1 in the SAC Championship finals. The Railsplitters would then end the Eagles' season on penalty kicks in the second round of the NCAA Tournament as Carson-Newman ended the year at 15-4-1 overall. The Eagles' lone conference loss came to the Pioneers in Jefferson City on Oct. 3 by a 2-1 score, which snapped Carson-Newman's streak of 18 straight SAC regular-season games without a loss. Tusculum leads the all-time series 19-17 with two draws.
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 Dec. 12 and 14.