- Samford will also play key nonconference contests against Toledo, Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State -
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- The Samford University soccer team officially released its 2012 schedule Tuesday as Head Coach Todd Yelton announced a challenging slate of matches for the Bulldogs this fall. Samford's upcoming schedule is highlighted by road matches against in-state opponents Auburn and Alabama, as well as a cross-town duel versus UAB.
Additionally, the Bulldogs will square off against Southeastern Conference opponents Tennessee and Kentucky, and will also play host to regional rivals Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State. The Bulldogs are also scheduled to travel to Louisville, Ky., for a key matchup against Toledo in the prestigious Cardinal Classic.
"This is going to be a very demanding schedule filled with great teams and great coaches," said Yelton. "This is going to be as competitive of a nonconference schedule that we've ever played. There are five teams in our nonconference schedule that played in the NCAA Tournament last year, and then we'll have our SoCon schedule, which is always very challenging. This conference continues to get better and better and our task will be even more demanding after winning the league last season."
Samford will begin its 2012 slate with a home exhibition contest against Georgia State on Aug. 10, at the Bulldogs' pristine second-year multi-million-dollar Samford Track and Soccer Stadium at 6 p.m. (CDT). A week later, the Bulldogs will begin a treacherous three-match road swing against SEC foes Tennessee (Aug. 17), Alabama (Aug. 24) and Auburn (Aug. 31).
"Traditionally, what we've done here is that we've always played a very demanding schedule," Yelton said. "Our goal is to be a top-25 program and when you play the likes of Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn, as well as the rest of our nonconference schedule, at the end of the day you better beat those teams. We don't schedule those teams just to show up to play. We schedule them to go in there and get wins. We've begun to do that in this program, now we just need to go out and compete and meet those tasks head-on."
On Sept. 2, Samford will welcome the UAB Blazers to campus for a critical intra-city matchup. Last season, the teams squared off at UAB's West Campus Field and the Bulldogs dropped a hard-fought 1-0 decision in the matchup. In the loss, Samford's All-Southern Conference goalkeeper Alyssa Whitehead tallied a game-high seven saves.
Following their home test against UAB in early September, the Bulldogs will once again take to the road as they head to Louisville, Ky., for the 2012 Cardinal Classic. On Sept. 7, Samford will square off against Toledo before facing Kentucky on Sept. 9, in the second day of the prestigious early-season competition.
The Bulldogs' final two matches of nonconference play are slated against Kennesaw State (Sept. 14) and Jacksonville State (Sept. 16) before heading to both Georgia Southern (Sept. 21) and Davidson (Sept. 23) to open their SoCon schedule.
"In this conference, every match is going to be tough, but I personally feel that our road matches will be much tougher," said Yelton. "Not that we can't be beaten at home, but I think it's far more difficult for teams to take points away from us here, but going on the road in this league is really challenging. It's challenging for any team and it's going to be even more challenging for us after being fortunate enough to go undefeated in the league last season."
Throughout the heart of the SoCon schedule, Samford will host Furman (Sept. 27), Western Carolina (Oct. 5), Appalachian State (Oct. 7), UNCG (Oct. 19) on Senior Night, and then Elon (Oct. 21) before playing host to the 2012 SoCon Tournament, Nov. 2-4.
Along with hosting the semifinal and championship rounds of the SoCon Tournament, Samford could also host a first-round match in the competition on Oct. 28 if the Bulldogs conclude the regular season as one of the top-four seeds in the eight-team tournament. It will be the first time that Samford has hosted the SoCon Tournament at the brilliant Samford Track and Soccer Stadium.
"Hosting the SoCon Tournament here is huge, but in this challenging league, we have to make sure that we get to that point first," Yelton said. "If we are fortunate enough to get to the conference semifinals, being able to play at home is a big advantage for any team. I certainly think it's a big advantage for us, especially considering how successful we've been when playing at home."
The Bulldogs will face SoCon foes Georgia Southern and Davidson on the road to open their 2012 conference slate, and will also play tough road matches at Wofford (Sept. 30), The Citadel (Oct. 12), College of Charleston (Oct. 14) and Chattanooga (Oct. 24).
Samford soccer is coming off one of its best seasons in school history. The 2011 Bulldogs registered a 14-6-2 overall record and went undefeated in SoCon play at 9-0-2. Samford won the league's regular-season title and earned its first SoCon Tournament championship with consecutive wins against Western Carolina, Furman and College of Charleston. The Bulldogs advanced to the 2012 NCAA Tournament where they squared off against the Florida State Seminoles.
In 2011, Samford also set school records with a 10-match winning streak and a 14-match undefeated streak.
The Samford University soccer team will begin competitive play in its 2012 schedule on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. (CDT) as the Bulldogs welcome the Georgia State Panthers to Birmingham for a key exhibition contest to be held at the state-of-the-art Samford Track and Soccer Stadium.