Spartanburg, S.C. – A home exhibition game against Clemson and a tough A-Sun slate highlights the schedule as USC Upstate released its 17-game men's soccer schedule for 2010 on Wednesday.
Upstate will play its fourth season on the Division I level as members of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Spartans will play their second season as full members of DI after the University tabbed the sport as one of two programs fast-tracked into DI membership. Upstate battled into the final weekend for one of six spots in the A-Sun Tournament last year and hopes to build on its most successful season on the Division I level to push for a postseason appearance in 2010.
Upstate will open the season with an exhibition game against Clemson on Aug. 24 at County University Soccer Stadium. It will mark the first appearance for the Tigers on campus and the fourth appearance in Spartanburg, having played at Wofford on three previous occasions.
"Playing Clemson at our stadium will be a major test for our team, and a match that our players are looking forward to playing," said Greg Hooks, entering his 16th season as head coach at Upstate and a member of the Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame. "Clemson has been a powerhouse in men's soccer for a long time, with two national championships, numerous NCAA tournament appearances and ACC championships. These types of matches reveal the state of our program relative to the top programs in Division I soccer. Having them come to Spartanburg is a bonus, and I appreciate them being willing to do this."
Upstate will open the regular season with a pair of road games at Georgia Southern on Sept. 1 and Georgia State on Sept. 4 before returning to County University Soccer Stadium on Sept. 7 for its regular season home opener against historical rival Presbyterian. The Spartans will play two teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year, facing A-Sun foe Stetson and in-city rival Wofford from the Southern Conference. Both games will be road contests.
Upstate will play eight regular season home games and eight regular season away games in 2010. The Spartans will play host to A-Sun foes Mercer, Campbell, North Florida, Jacksonville and ETSU, while hosting non-conference games against Presbyterian, UNC Asheville and Furman. Upstate will hit the road in conference play against Florida Gulf Coast, Stetson, Lipscomb and Belmont, while playing away against non-conference foes Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Gardner-Webb and Wofford.
"Our schedule is appropriate for our program at this time," said Hooks. "We play a good regional schedule, which is challenging since the South tends to be the deepest region in the country. Our out of conference matches include Wofford, Furman, and Gardner Webb, all of which have advanced to the NCAA Tournament in the recent past."
Upstate won five games in 2009, equaling the win total of the previous two seasons combined. With a strong nucleus of returning players led by Maurice Beggs, Timo Foerster, Hakeem King and Erkan Yildirim and a talented crop of newcomers, Hooks will look to build toward a spot in the A-Sun Tournament. Nine teams will battle for one of six spots into the tournament, making each conference game vastly important for a chance to play in the postseason. Upstate entered the final A-Sun game of the season still alive for a spot in the 2009 A-Sun Tournament, but fell to Lipscomb in the league finale and narrowly missed a spot in the tournament.
"The A-Sun is always going to be challenging, and our goal is to qualify for the conference tournament in 2010," said Hooks. "I feel that this is a realistic goal, but we will need to play well to achieve it."