GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG’s women’s soccer team will face what will undoubtedly be one of the toughest schedules in the nation in 2012, taking on eight teams that reached the 2011 NCAA Championship, including defending national champion Stanford.
In addition facing the Cardinal, second-year UNCG coach Steve Nugent has lined up dates against NCAA participants Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Santa Clara and Wake Forest as well as defending Southern Conference champion Samford.
“I am extremely excited for our team to compete against some of the best teams in college soccer,” Nugent said. “Our girls will be put to the test early at home against the North Carolina Tar Heels, and it keeps going from there. Our returning players, with their experience and leadership, mixed with a group of young, talented recruits, will give us a fantastic opportunity to be competitive against these teams. Our home attendance was one of the tops in the Southern Conference last year, and our fans give us such amazing support.”
The Spartans, who went 8-10-1 overall and 7-3-1 in the SoCon last year, will host the 20-time NCAA champion Tar Heels for an exhibition match at UNCG Soccer Stadium on Aug. 11 before getting in to regular-season play.
UNCG officially opens the 2012 slate on Aug. 17 at Georgia, where Nugent served as an assistant coach for three years prior to coming to Greensboro. A week later, the Spartans will make the short trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., for a date with NCAA College Cup participant Wake Forest, which fell in the national semifinals last season.
“I feel that you have to be tested on the road,” Nugent said. “Playing perennial NCAA tournament teams UGA and Wake Forest away from home gives us a chance to see right away how our team will respond to playing in tough environments. The fan bases at those venues make them awesome environments to play at.”
The first regular-season contest at home comes on Aug. 26, when UNCG will host UNC Asheville.
The Spartans will head to Lexington, Ky., for a tournament from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. There, UNCG will face tournament host Kentucky as well as Louisville, both NCAA qualifiers last season. The Cardinals advanced to the NCAA Round of 16.
“Once again, a tough road trip against two 2011 NCAA tournament teams puts us to the test,” Nugent said. “We get to see two teams from different conferences (SEC and Big East). Our road games within the Southern Conference this year are going to be challenging. Our league is very competitive top to bottom and these types of early contests will prepare for us for what will be an interesting September and October.”
UNCG returns home to host backyard rival High Point on Sept. 9 before embarking on another lengthy journey to close nonconference play. The Spartans will make their second trip to the West Coast in the last three seasons for a tournament at Santa Clara from Sept. 14-16. UNCG will face 2001 national champion Santa Clara on Sept. 14 before taking on Stanford two days later.
Stanford’s senior class enters the 2012 campaign with a 73-2-2 record over the last three seasons and won the program’s first national title in 2011 after falling in the championship game in each of the two years prior.
“Competing out west is a priority for us because of our recruiting ties to the region. Jerry Smith at Santa Clara has put together a great tournament and we are thankful for the invite. For several of our players, this will be a homecoming and a dream to play two of the best teams in the history of women’s soccer in their home state. Santa Clara and Stanford play the game with flare and personality, and that is what we aspire to do each day. Any time you can have the defending national champion on your schedule, you can’t help but be excited for your team. Our girls will be honored to be a part of this prestigious tournament.”
The Spartans open SoCon play at Appalachian State on Sept. 21 before returning home to take on Western Carolina two days later. UNCG will host College of Charleston and The Citadel the following weekend to cap a season-long three-game homestand.
The Spartans will head to South Carolina’s Upstate for games at Furman and Wofford on Oct. 5 and 7, respectively, before returning to UNCG to close the home portion of the schedule. The Spartans host Davidson on Oct. 12 and will wrap up the home slate against Georgia Southern on Oct. 14.
A tough three-game road swing ends the season. UNCG, which won five straight SoCon titles from 2006-11, will try to reclaim the throne from Samford in Birmingham, Ala., on Oct. 19 before taking on Chattanooga on the road two days later.
UNCG wraps up the regular season at rival Elon on Oct. 24.
“We look forward to another challenging year in the Southern Conference,” Nugent said. “In my first year, I learned very quickly that our conference is one of the best. Each week, we are tested both mentally and physically by our opponents. The level of play and intensity increases week after week. Our goal is to be playing our best when the conference schedule begins and our nonconference schedule prepares us for what will be a very challenging year. If your team is holding the trophy in November, you can be guaranteed you have been tested, which gives you confidence going into the NCAA tournament, and our goal is to be that team in 2012.”
The top four seeds host SoCon Championship quarterfinal contests on Oct. 28 before the semifinals and finals take place in Birmingham on Nov. 2 and 4, respectively.
2012 UNCG women’s soccer schedule
Aug. 11 North Carolina (exhibition), 7 p.m.
Aug. 17 at Georgia, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 UNC Asheville, 2 p.m.
Aug. 31 at Kentucky (Kentucky tournament, Lexington, Ky.)
Sept. 2 vs. Louisville (at Kentucky tournament, Lexington, Ky.)
Sept. 9 High Point, 2 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Santa Clara, 10:30 p.m. (Santa Clara tournament, Santa Clara, Calif.)
Sept. 16 vs. Stanford, 2 p.m. (at Santa Clara tournament, Santa Clara, Calif.)
Sept. 21 at Appalachian State*, 7 p.m
Sept. 23 Western Carolina*, 2 p.m.
Sept. 30 College of Charleston*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 The Citadel*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Furman*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Wofford*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 12 Davidson*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 Georgia Southern*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Samford*, 8 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Chattanooga*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Elon*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 SoCon Championship quarterfinals, TBA (top four seeds host)
Nov. 2 SoCon Championship semifinals, TBA (Birmingham, Ala.)
Nov. 4 SoCon Championship final, TBA (Birmingham, Ala.)