MORAGA, Calif. - Coming off the most successful season in program history, the Saint Mary's men's soccer team will open its 19-game schedule this fall looking to compete for a second-straight West Coast Conference title.
In addition to their 12-game league schedule, the Gaels play seven non-conference games, five against teams that finished in the top-4 of its conference a year ago and two that advanced to the NCAA Tournament - including NCAA semifinalist Creighton.
"This schedule is going to be fun and challenging," said SMC head coach Adam Cooper, a two-time West Coast Conference Coach of the Year. "Our goals are to repeat as WCC Champions and make another deep run into the NCAA tournament. We want to play a non-conference schedule that is difficult and prepares us for an always grueling WCC slate of games."
Cooper will get the first competitive look at his team in an August 18 exhibition contest at Bay Area rival Stanford in 7 p.m. start at Cagan Stadium. The Gaels play the first of their three non-league home games on August 26 at 2 p.m. against UNLV. Following a Sept. 2 road game at Sacramento State, Saint Mary's returns home for a pair of games against teams that played in last year's NCAA Tournament.
Saint Mary's hosts CSU Bakersfield on Friday, Sept. 7 in a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament first round game that ended in a 1-0 Gaels road win. At the time, the Roadrunners were ranked 25th nationally, featured one of the top offensive sides in the country and a sellout crowd of more than 2,000 CSUB fans attended the contest.
Two days later, on Sept. 9, the Gaels host reigning Missouri Valley Conference champion Creighton in a 3 p.m. start at Saint Mary's Stadium. The Gaels dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision at the third-ranked Bluejays last season, one of Creighton's 19 shutouts - the second-best single-season total in NCAA history. Creighton ended the season with a 12-match unbeaten streak and earned a 0-0 draw with Charlotte in the College Cup semifinals, but did not advance to the final after losing 4-1 in PKs.
The Gaels complete their non-league schedule with 3-straight games away from home. SMC plays host UNC Wilmington and Appalachian State in a tournament in Wilmington, N.C. on Sept 14 and 16, then travels to nearby UC Davis for a single game on Sept. 22.
Saint Mary's opens WCC play with a Sept. 28 game against Loyola Marymount in the first of 3-straight conference home games. The team closes out its home slate with a Nov. 4 game against Bay Area rival San Francisco, then ends its regular-season at Loyola Marymount on Nov. 11.
Saint Mary's returns four starters and 10 letter winners from last year's team that registered an 11-7-5 record, won the program's first WCC championship with a 7-3-2 mark and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals. The Gaels won three-straight road games against higher-seeded opponents in the postseason before bowing out at top-seeded and eventual national champion North Carolina.