LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A year after finishing the season with only two losses in its last nine games and including positive results against NCAA opponents Indiana, South Carolina, Tulsa and UCF, the Kentucky men's soccer team has announced its 2011 schedule, featuring nine opponents who competed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, it was announced on Thursday by UK head coach Ian Collins.
Kentucky will face an extremely challenging 2011 schedule, including:
Nine opponents who advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round or higher
Six of UK's 2011 opponents advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the field and three advanced to the Final 8
UK will face 13 teams that finished in the top 76 in the final 2010 NCAA RPI
UK will face a loaded field of opponents in 2011, opening up with Dayton on Aug. 26, before hosting Michigan on Aug. 28, with the Wolverines coming off a loss in the Final Four of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats will host Wright State and IUPUI in the University of Kentucky Invitational on Sept. 2-4, before hosting IPFW on Sept. 6 to complete a five-game season-opening home stand.
UK will then hit the road for a two-game swing in California, at Stanford on Sept. 9 and California (NCAA Elite Eight) on Sept. 11 in Berkeley, Calif. UK will continue its road swing, traveling to Columbia, S.C., for the South Carolina Invitational Tournament, facing Brown (NCAA Sweet Sixteen) on Sept. 16 and High Point on Sept. 18. The Wildcats will wrap up its road swing at Creighton (NCAA Sweet Sixteen) on Sept. 21 in Omaha, Neb.
The Wildcats will then have one final non-league test before opening C-USA action, hosting Evansville on Sept. 23 at the UK Soccer Complex.
UK will open league action on Sept. 28 at Central Florida (NCAA second round), as part of a two-game swing through the Sunshine State, concluding with an Oct. 2 match at FIU in Miami. UK will host Marshall on Oct. 5. UAB on Oct. 8 and Tulsa (NCAA Second Round) on Oct. 12.
Kentucky will step out of conference play with a battle at tradition-rich Indiana (NCAA Sweet Sixteen) on Oct. 19, before traveling to face Memphis on Oct. 23, before wrapping up the home schedule with SMU (NCAA Elite Eight) on Oct. 30. UK's final regular-season match will come at South Carolina (NCAA Sweet Sixteen) on Nov. 4, before traveling to Tulsa, Okla., for the 2011 C-USA Tournament.
"The 2011 schedule is extremely difficult," Collins said. "Our goal was simply to put together one of the most challenging schedules in the country and there is no question we have done that. We have a great home schedule with games against Michigan, SMU, Tulsa, UAB and Dayton amongst others. All of our road games are extremely challenging. Along with the quality of opponents from top to bottom we also have to deal with extensive travel that will push our players and staff all to the way to the limits. Creighton, Cal, Stanford, Indiana, South Carolina, UCF and Brown are games that are against top-20 caliber opponents and will test all of our qualities. Our conference has solidified itself as one of the premier leagues in the nation and each one of our C-USA games are played with the intensity of post-season play."
The Wildcats are coming off a 7-8-4 season, including a 4-2-2 mark in C-USA action, finishing third in the high-octane league and facing the 16th-toughest schedule in the nation. In 2010, C-USA placed four teams in the NCAA field, checking in as the fourth-best league in the NCAA RPI. The Wildcats finished the 2010 C-USA schedule just one point out of second place and since the league was realigned in 2005, UK and powerhouse Tulsa are the only teams to make the conference tournament field in every season. Since UK entered C-USA, the Wildcats own the second-best overall record in the league (25-11-4), posting four second-place finishes.
The Wildcats will have a different and more experienced look than the 2010 version, returning many players who gained valuable experience in 2010 including Matt Lodge, who led UK in scoring with four goals and three assists as a sophomore, Tyler Riggs who had five goals as a freshman. Sam Brooks added three goals and one assists, freshman All-American Dylan Asher who led UK in minutes played and All-Conference defender Brad Walker netted a goal and had two assists. In goal, UK returns All-Conference USA goalkeeper Tyler Beadle, who posted a 1.30 goals-against average, saving 63 shots in 19 games as freshman. Lodge, Riggs, Asher and Beadle all earned All-Conference USA honors in 2010.
In 2011, UK will be bolstered by the return of several players who did not play in 2010, including veteran midfielders Josh McCrary and C.J. Tappel along with highly rated newcomers Josh Mulvany and Marco Bordon, as well as freshman Ryan Costen, Craig Heard and Christo Nousiadis who missed the majority season due to injury.
"We had some early setbacks in 2010 but I was really pleased with our development and the way in which we played in the second half of the season," Collins said. "We are much deeper, more talented and more experienced now and have high expectations for the 2011 season. Players like Jacob Kemper, Cameron Wilder, Brendan Murphy, Charles Pettys, Steven Perinovic and Hartwick transfer Pedro Andreoni have had great springs are now prepared to take on the level of competition ahead."