San Jose, Calif. - The San Jose State University men’s soccer team will have nine home dates and four opponents from the 2008 NCAA Division I Championship on its 20-game 2009 regular-season schedule, as announced by head coach Gary St. Clair on Friday, June 5.
San Jose State will play a single exhibition game in preparation for the 2009 campaign, hosting Cal State Monterey Bay, an NCAA Division II program and member of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), on Friday, August 28. Kick-off is set for 5:00 p.m. at Spartan Stadium to start the first of just two Spartan soccer doubleheaders in 2009. The San Jose State women will take on San Diego State beginning at approximately 7:30 p.m. later that same night.
The Spartans will contest their season opener against 2008 NCAA Championship participant UC Davis on Tuesday night, September 1, at 7:00 p.m. inside Spartan Stadium. The Aggies, now third-year members of the NCAA Division I and Big West Conference after a move from the Division II level and the CCAA, blanked the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion Denver Pioneers at home, 4-0, in advancing to the NCAA Second Round a year ago. They have qualified for the NCAA Division I post-season in back-to-back years.
San Jose State next heads into a difficult portion of non-conference play that will see St. Clair’s side play six of seven games and eight of 10 away from home. The Spartans are set to take part in Oregon State’s tournament in Corvallis, Ore., during the first weekend of September. San Jose State meets the host Beavers of the Pacific-10 Conference at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, September 4, prior to the first of two meetings this year with Houston Baptist University on Sunday, September 6, at 11:00 a.m. The Huskies compete in the Atlantic Soccer Conference (ASC), and are in year three of their transition back to the NCAA Division I level after re-starting their program in 2006. They have posted three consecutive 10-win seasons since that time.
The Spartans’ road stretch continues in Southern California, as they face Loyola Marymount University of the West Coast Conference in Los Angeles at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 11, and the Big West’s UC Riverside in Riverside at 2:30 p.m. two days later.
St. Clair’s squad returns home briefly for a 7:00 p.m. meeting with NAIA side Notre Dame de Namur University from Belmont, Calif., inside Spartan Stadium on Wednesday, September 16.
The Spartans then head back on the road for back-to-back battles with NCAA Championship teams from a year ago. They first are in San Luis Obispo, Calif., against Cal Poly on Sunday, September 20, at 1:00 p.m. The Mustangs won at UCLA, 1-0, in advancing to the NCAA Second Round in 2008, and were ranked third in per-game home attendance nationally.
On Friday night, September 25, San Jose State and the University of San Francisco will contest a 7:00 p.m. affair at Negoesco Stadium in the City. USF lost 3-0 at California in the 2008 NCAA First Round after qualifying for the tournament automatically as the WCC champion.
The Spartans played a pair of double-overtime home thrillers against Cal Poly and USF in 2008, a 2-2 draw with the Mustangs and a dramatic 1-0 triumph over the Dons on a Nick Cukar strike.
San Jose State and Santa Clara renew their South Bay rivalry on Sunday, September 27, with a primetime meeting at 7:00 p.m. inside Spartan Stadium. The teams played to a 1-1 tie in Santa Clara during what was a down year for the traditional WCC power Broncos in 2008.
The Spartans travel to Houston, Texas, for their second and final regular-season tournament at Houston Baptist to begin the month of October. They are scheduled to take on the host Huskies of HBU on Friday night, October 2, at 5:30 p.m. PT, followed by another ASC club in Howard University on Sunday, October 4, at 11:00 a.m. PT.
San Jose State contests a final non-conference tilt with MPSF foe Sacramento State at Spartan Stadium on Thursday, October 8, at 7:00 p.m., to take it into the league slate.
The MPSF portion of the 2009 schedule begins at home against the defending champs from Denver on Friday, October 16, at 7:00 pm. San Jose State will then also host Air Force at Spartan Stadium two days later at 1:00 p.m.
The MPSF and its schedule will have a new look this year. The conference moves to eight teams with the additions of new Division I programs Seattle University and Cal State Bakersfield, both of whom the Spartans defeated in 2008, 2-1 at home and 2-0 on the road, respectively. Instead of a 10-game double-round-robin, the eight squads will go with a seven-game single-round-robin in 2009 only. The league will then split into two four-team divisions in 2010 and go back to a 10-game schedule, as each squad will play a home-and-home with the other three teams in its division, and one match with members of the other foursome. San Jose State has been grouped with Sacramento State, Seattle and Cal State Bakersfield, while the other side will have Air Force, Denver, UNLV and New Mexico.
The 2009 MPSF slate will continue on the road for the Spartans at Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, October 23, at 7:00 p.m., and at Seattle on Sunday, October 25, at 1:00 p.m.
On Friday night, October 30, San Jose State welcomes UNLV to Spartan Stadium, with an approximate kick-off time of 7:00 p.m., as the Spartan women host Western Athletic Conference rival Fresno State to open the twin bill at 5:00 p.m. on their Senior Night.
The Spartan men have their own Senior Day lined up for their five seniors, two days later against New Mexico on Sunday, November 1, at 1:00 p.m. The Lobos had won four straight MPSF crowns, and six of the last seven, prior to being knocked off the top by Denver in 2008.
St. Clair’s team concludes the 2009 regular season in the state capital against the Sacramento State Hornets on Saturday, November 7, at 2:30 p.m.
The MPSF Tournament is back in 2009, for the first time since 2003, with the Pioneers serving as hosts in Denver, Colo., November 12-15. The other significant change that goes along with the return of the event is that the MPSF’s automatic berth into the NCAA Championship will once again go to the tournament champion, and not to the regular-season winner. The Spartans’ last two NCAA post-season appearances came as the MPSF Tournament champs in 2003 and 2000.
The NCAA Division I Championship will have the first of its six rounds taking place November 20-21, with the 2009 Men’s College Cup set for Cary, N.C., December 11-13.
The Spartans head into the new campaign on a six-match unbeaten run, having gone 5-0-1 to close out the 2008 season, all against MPSF opposition. San Jose State went 9-5-4 overall and 5-4-1 in the MPSF, its 16 points good for a third-place showing in the league standings.
“The truth is that I’m not a big proponent of the single-round-robin,” explained St. Clair. “I would prefer to be on a 10-game conference schedule, which we will going to in 2010. The single-round-robin really puts a premium for us on conference games. Conference games, of course, are always the most important things there are, but it gives you a little bit more margin when you have 10 games, or a double-round-robin. It’s going to be extremely important that our focus is completely and utterly on every single game in conference. Our preparation must be excellent. Our players must be ready to play for every single conference match.
“We started off a bit slow last year. We had a very difficult three-game road trip to open up, and it put us behind the curve a bit. I think what’s going to be really helpful for us is we’re riding a six-game unbeaten streak in conference play off of last season. I am excited about getting off to a quick start next year. I’m also excited about the conference tournament, because that gives us a chance to prepare ourselves for NCAA play. I think this team has the capability of getting there. I think the focus for us is very simple. We need to get off to a quick start, because there is very little room for error here.
“The reason that we are (playing a non-conference match with a league opponent), and the reason that we are travelling so far this year (to Oregon and Texas), is because this single-round-robin schedule was only voted upon and finalized last December. That is far too close to a season to be able to find other opponents, because we schedule two to three years out, easily. So trying to find Stanford, trying to get Cal, trying to get other teams that were not on our schedule, at that late date, is next to impossible.
“It’s big,” St. Clair continued about opening league play with two home games, and having the two teams that finished above the Spartans in 2008, Denver and New Mexico, both coming to Spartan Stadium. “I think we’ve got a tremendous home schedule. It gives us every chance to accomplish what we want. What we need to do, is we need to make sure we get off to a quick start, because there are no longer as many points in conference, as there used to be. Every single point is going to be at a real premium. We’ve got these teams coming into our stadium early on, and there lies our focus.
“The non-conference schedule is extremely challenging. We’re going to have a young team this year. Many times when you end up with young teams, one of the things that can be helpful is to get them on the road a little bit, get them out and really create a bond, if you will, within the team. We open up with UC Davis, which was an NCAA Championship team last year. We go up to Oregon State, which is one of the most difficult places to play on the West Coast. Oregon State might not be the best team that we’ll play, but it may be one of the most difficult sites that we play at all year long. We come back from Oregon and go down to Los Angeles to play LMU and UCR. Both are very good out-of-conference opponents. Cal Poly is an NCAA playoff team, and so is USF. We have a run of six away matches, with only Notre Dame de Namur at home in between those. That’s really tough. If that doesn’t get us ready for the conference, nothing will. We come back with Santa Clara, which is always a tremendous rivalry we have with them, and then we go out of state to Houston Baptist. From there on in, it’s a race to the finish line in conference. That will undoubtedly be our focus, is the quick start in the conference.”