MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin head soccer coach Phil McNamara has announced the team’s 2012 fall schedule, which is highlighted by four Friday night games at Skyhawk Field for the first time in program history.
Thanks to the continuous ongoing efforts to upgrade Skyhawk Field, new lights were installed over the summer, giving UT Martin a new option for starting times in 2012. McNamara chalked up four home dates – one exhibition and three regular-season matches – for fans to watch the Skyhawks under the lights this fall.
Overall, UT Martin will square off against teams from eight different conferences in 2012, including a pair of matches against teams from the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference. The Skyhawks – who made their first NCAA Tournament appearance last season – also will battle one team each from the Atlantic 10 Conference, Big Ten Conference, Colonial Athletic Association, Southwestern Athletic Conference and Sun Belt Conference.
“This schedule is the most difficult of my entire coaching career,” said McNamara, who enters his third year at UT Martin and 13th year overall in 2012. “We face some outstanding challenges this fall. This schedule is geared towards motivating and forcing our players to become better soccer players.”
The first opportunity to view the Skyhawks at home will be an exhibition match against Western Kentucky, who advanced to the Sun Belt Conference title game in 2011. The matchup against the Lady Toppers will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10.
One week later, UT Martin officially opens the season with another night match against SEC foe Vanderbilt. This marks the second time in McNamara’s three seasons that the Skyhawks will open the season with a home match against a SEC team.
“We are excited about playing under the lights for the first time here at UT Martin,” McNamara said. “We then have some really difficult road games that offer a fantastic playing environment for the players to look forward to.”
The Skyhawks then hit the road for five straight matches, including a competitive Bulldog Classic on Aug. 24-26. In that tournament, they will face their second consecutive SEC rival in Mississippi State as well as Mississippi Valley State, who is coming off a SWAC championship match appearance last season.
McNamara will then lead UT Martin into the Hoosier State for a pair of non-conference matches, as the team will take on Purdue and Butler on Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, respectively.
UT Martin’s next two non-conference outings are against familiar foes Arkansas State (road match on Sept. 7) and Lipscomb (home match on Sept. 9). The Skyhawks have not lost against Arkansas State since 2005 and have not dropped a decision against Lipscomb since 2003.
A trip down south to Georgia State (Sept. 14) and Kennesaw State (Sept. 16) follows before the Ohio Valley Conference season begins with a road date against defending regular-season champion Southeast Missouri on Sept. 21.
Alumni Weekend will coincide with a brief two-match homestand on Sept. 28 and Sept. 30, as UT Martin takes on Austin Peay and Murray State.
October begins with a two-game road swing at Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville, followed by home matches against Morehead State (Oct. 12) and Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 14). Road matches at Belmont (competing in its first-ever OVC season) and Jacksonville State follow, before the regular season concludes with an Oct. 28 showdown against Tennessee Tech.
Once again, the league’s postseason tournament will be held at the site of the regular season champion. The quarterfinals will be played on Nov. 1, followed by the semifinals on Nov. 2 and championship on Nov. 4.
“Our focus will encourage individual and team growth with patient improvement to be ready for our conference season,” McNamara said. “We expect much pain, sweat and tears with this schedule but expect a team to be ready to defend our OVC tournament title.”