Marquette Men's Soccer Announces 2012 Schedule
June 8, 2012
MILWAUKEE - Defending BIG EAST Conference Blue Division champions Marquette University announced its 2012 men's soccer schedule Friday. Head coach Louis Bennett and the Golden Eagles officially kick off the campaign with their annual Fan Fest on Friday, Aug. 10 at Valley Fields.
This year's slate features 17 regular season matches and preseason tilts against Loyola Chicago, defending Atlantic 10 tournament champion Xavier and Wright State, including six contests against teams coming off NCAA postseason appearances in 2011.
"It's important that our preseason prepares us for the regular season and gives us some indication of where we need work and what we do well," said Bennett, who is entering his seventh year at the helm. "Win, lose or draw, it gives us an opportunity to see multiple players in multiple combinations."
Marquette opens the 2012 regular season on Friday, Aug. 24, with its annual crosstown derby against the Milwaukee Panthers. It will mark the 40th time the two teams have met. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. Central Time at Valley Fields. Following the match, the MU women's soccer team will host the Panthers at approximately 8:30 p.m.
"It's a great opportunity for the soccer fans of the community and for the students of both schools to start off the college soccer season in a great way," said Bennett. "Fans will get to see both the men's and women's teams play, sprinkle in the local rivalry, and it's a chance to get the entire region excited about college soccer."
The Golden Eagles continue with their first road match of the season on Aug. 26 at Green Bay, which is the beginning of a two-year, home-and-home series, to face the Phoenix for the first time since 2007. MU will follow-up with non-conference contests against UIC (Aug. 31), Drake (Sept. 2) and 2011 Summit League champion Western Illinois (Sept. 8) before welcoming the Michigan Wolverines to town on Sept. 14 for the first part of this year's BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge.
MU travels to Michigan State on Sept. 16 before turning around to host DePaul at Valley Fields in the BIG EAST regular season opener on Sept. 22 and in-state rival Wisconsin on Sept. 26.
"Overall, I think we have a well-balanced non-conference schedule, and obviously our non-conference schedule is hugely important when considering possible at-large berths for the NCAA tournament at the end of the season," Bennett said. "Validity and strength is highlighted with Michigan State and Michigan, and then obviously both Wisconsin and Northern Illinois have traditionally been solid within our region."
NCAA quarterfinalist and BIG EAST Blue Division nemesis Connecticut comes to Valley Fields on Oct. 6 followed by Northern Illinois on Oct. 9 before the Golden Eagles embark on a two-game road stint against divisional opponents Georgetown (Oct. 13) and Pittsburgh (Oct. 17).
"Traveling and playing in the BIG EAST is always a challenge and that's part of the reason you relish the opportunity to take points away from home," said Bennett. "In addition, when you bring in teams like UConn and Notre Dame, you provide the community to opportunity to see some of the top college teams in the entire country."
An interesting scheduling dynamic presented itself with the departure of West Virginia this year. As a result, MU and Notre Dame will go head-to-head twice in 2012 in back-to-back fashion. Marquette plays at Notre Dame on Oct. 24 and will turn around and play the Fighting Irish again Oct. 27 at Valley Fields in the regular season finale.
"These two games will mean a lot to both teams," Bennett said of the two matches against Notre Dame. "That series will likely determine tournament seeding for the BIG EAST Championship and affect both teams' RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, used by the NCAA to determine postseason seeding). It's two games that will have huge consequences for both sides."
Coach Bennett also looks for the Golden Eagles to earn their fourth-straight BIG EAST postseason tournament berth; this year's BIG EAST Championship will be held Oct. 31 through Nov. 11 with the semifinals and final to be held again at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., followed the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship scheduled for the following weekend.