GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum men's soccer team has released its 2017 season schedule, according to head coach Allen Vital.
The Pioneers are coming off a banner 2016 season that saw that team win its second South Atlantic Conference Tournament title in the last three years, while earning a bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament for a fifth time and first since 2008. Tusculum went 16-4-0 overall and placed second in the SAC with an 8-3-0 league record, and finished the season ranked 24th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II Top 25. The Pioneers won five overtime matches, including a victory over defending national champion Pfeiffer, and won their first 12 matches to earn a ranking as high as seventh in the NSCAA poll.
Tusculum will play a 16-match schedule in 2017, including 10 against SAC opponents and six non-league contests. All six non-conference opponents qualified for their respective conference tournaments in 2016, while a total of three NCAA participants will be on the Pioneers' schedule in 2017. Tusculum will play nine of its 16 matches at Pioneer Field, where the team went 9-1 a year ago.
The Pioneers kick off their 2017 season on Saturday, Sept. 2 at Pioneer Field against Barton. The Bulldogs went 6-11-1 overall last season and finished seventh in Conference Carolinas with a 4-5-1 record before being eliminated in the opening round of the league tournament. Tusculum holds a 2-1-1 edge in the all-time series with Barton, with the last meeting going to the Pioneers by a 1-0 score on Sept. 19, 2015.
Tusculum's first road trip of the season will be to Young Harris on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The Mountain Lions, who advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2014 and the third round in 2015, failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament in 2016 despite an 11-6-1 overall record and a second-place finish in the Peach Belt Conference at 6-3-1. Young Harris defeated Lander in penalty kicks to win the PBC tournament championship. The meeting will be the third all-time between the schools, with the Mountain Lions holding a win and a draw over the Pioneers. Since a 3-2 win in their last meeting with Tusculum in 2011, Young Harris has compiled a record of 77-17-4 over the past five seasons.
The Pioneers will host Lander on Sunday, Sept. 10 in a meeting with the other Peach Belt Conference tournament finalist from last season. Despite their loss to Young Harris in the championship match, the Bearcats claimed a spot in the NCAA Tournament field and lost 2-1 to Limestone in the opening round. Lander finished 14-4-1 overall last year and was a perfect 9-0 in conference play. Tusculum leads the all-time series 4-3-1, with the last meeting back in 2010.
Tusculum kicks off its SAC schedule on Wednesday, Sept. 13 with a rematch of last year's SAC Tournament final against Lincoln Memorial. The Pioneers defeated the Railsplitters 2-1 in double overtime on a goal by Andre De Giorgi to win a league-best sixth SAC Tournament championship. In the regular-season meeting, the Pioneers claimed a 2-0 win in Harrogate. LMU finished 11-7-1 overall and in fifth place in the SAC last season with a 6-5 league mark. The Railsplitters have a slim 12-11-5 edge in the all-time series with the Pioneers.
Another postseason rematch awaits the Pioneers on Saturday, Sept. 16 as Tusculum visits Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears finished third in the SAC at 7-3-1 and were one of three conference teams to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. In the first round, Lenoir-Rhyne defeated Tusculum 3-1 to advance to the second round, where they fell to Pfeiffer. Tusculum won the regular-season meeting at home by a score of 2-1, and the Pioneers lead the all-time series 17-9-3.
Tusculum continues a stretch of four out of five matches on the road on Wednesday, Sept. 20 with a trip to Queens University of Charlotte. The Royals missed the SAC Tournament last year after finishing 6-8-1 overall and 3-7-1 in the conference, claiming ninth place in the standings. The Pioneers needed double overtime to beat the Royals in last year's meeting, winning 1-0 on a goal by Isai Hernandez. Tusculum has won five of the six all-time meetings with Queens.
On Saturday, Sept. 23 the Pioneers are back home to face off with Anderson. The Trojans finished with a winning record last season at 7-6-3, but went just 2-6-3 in SAC play to finish in 10th place in the league standings. Tusculum defeated Anderson 1-0 on the road last season and trails the all-time series to the Trojans by a 6-5 margin.
Following their stretch of four conference games, the Pioneers step back outside the league on Wednesday, Sept. 27 to travel to Bristol to face King. The Tornado were 7-11 last season and went 5-5 in Conference Carolinas to tie for fifth place in the league, before being eliminated in the first round of the tournament. Tusculum opened its season last year with a 4-2 win over King, and holds a 17-8-2 edge in the series.
Tusculum opens the second half of its schedule on Saturday, Sept. 30 with a visit to Newberry. The Wolves were 5-10-2 overall last season and 2-7-2 in the SAC for a 12th-place finish, including a 3-0 loss to the Pioneers in Greeneville. Tusculum has had the upper hand in the all-time series with Newberry, owning a 16-0-2 all-time record.
The Pioneers play five of their final seven matches on their home turf, starting Wednesday, Oct. 4 against Lees-McRae in a non-conference contest. The Bobcats were 5-14 overall last season and tied for eighth place in Conference Carolinas at 4-6 before losing in the league semifinals. Tusculum defeated Lees-McRae 2-1 in overtime on the road last season as Andreas Kvam netted the match-winner. The Pioneers have a 14-4-1 lead in the series.
On Sunday, Oct. 8 Tusculum will square off with Coker. The Pioneers defeated the Cobras twice last season by identical 2-0 scores, once in a regular-season contest on the road and again in the SAC Championship semifinals. The Cobras were 7-8-2 overall last season and 5-6 in the conference before upsetting Lenoir-Rhyne in the league quarterfinals. Tusculum has a 3-2 advantage in the five all-time meetings between the schools.
Tusculum will play a rare Friday night game on Oct. 13 when the Pioneers go to Mars Hill. The teams met during the regular season and again in the SAC Championship tournament at Pioneer Field last season, with both contests decided by one goal. Tusculum held off Mars Hill 2-1 in the regular-season meeting, then needed a late regulation goal from Guillermo Lazcano and a double-overtime goal from Georgios Charkoutsakis to eliminate the Lions 3-2 in the SAC quarterfinals. Mars Hill finished 6-10-1 overall and 4-6-1 in the conference to place seventh a year ago. Tusculum leads the all-time series by a 14-9-3 margin.
On Wednesday, Oct. 18 the Pioneers will host Carson-Newman in a renewal of the fierce rivalry between the schools. The Eagles spoiled the Pioneers' perfect record last year by winning 2-1 in double overtime in Jefferson City to hand Tusculum its first loss after 12 straight victories. Despite the win, Carson-Newman failed to qualify for the SAC postseason after finishing 7-10 overall and 3-8 in the conference to come home in 11th place. Tusculum continues to maintain a slight edge in the all-time series by a margin of 15-13-4.
Tusculum's final road match of the regular season will be on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Catawba. The Catawba Indians were the only team to shut out the Pioneers and the only away team to win at Pioneer Field last season, claiming a 3-0 victory. Catawba finished the season 10-7 overall and in fourth place in the SAC with a 7-4 league record, but trails Tusculum in the all-time series as the Pioneers lead 13-11-1.
The final week of the regular season kicks off on Wednesday, Oct. 25 as the Pioneers host Lee in a non-conference contests. The Flames were 9-7-2 overall last season and went 4-3-2 in the Gulf South Conference for a fifth-place finish, before losing in the first round of the league playoffs. Tusculum traveled to Lee last season and used a pair of late goals to beat the Flames 4-2. The Pioneers lead the series with Lee six wins to five.
Tusculum wraps up the regular season on Saturday, Oct. 28 with a visit from defending NCAA Division II champions Wingate. The Bulldogs spent most of the second half of the season ranked number-one in the country and compiled a perfect regular-season record before a stunning upset loss to Brevard in the SAC Championship quarterfinals. Wingate regrouped after the loss and rolled through the NCAA Tournament to the program's first national title and a final record of 18-1. Last year's regular-season meeting was an even contest, with Wingate coming away with a 2-1 home-field victory to cap an 11-0 league schedule. Tusculum has a 13-10 lead over Wingate in the all-time series.
The SAC Championship tournament will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 31 with quarterfinal games hosted by the four highest seeds in the eight-team field. The semifinals will be played at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, South Carolina on Friday, Nov. 3 with the championship match scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 5.
The NCAA Tournament will begin with regional play on Nov. 9-10 and held at campus sites. The NCAA Super Regional will be conducted the following week (Nov. 18-19) also at campus sites. The national semifinal (Nov. 30) and championship match (Dec. 2) will be played in Kansas City, Missouri.