San Jose, Calif. - San Jose State University men’s soccer head coach Gary St. Clair has announced the 2008 Spartan schedule, which features 12 home contests among a total of 20 games and includes five meetings with four NCAA Championship participants from 2007.
“The first thing that strikes me is that we continually have one of the toughest schedules in our region,” said St. Clair. “For one thing, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation is a very strong conference. Secondly, we are in a geographic portion of the Bay Area that has five other Division I opponents that are all quite good. Our schedule is pretty much made up of those two factors, either playing non-conference matches against USF, Stanford and Santa Clara, or going up twice against MPSF teams like New Mexico, Denver and UNLV. They are very, very difficult conference opponents.
“It’s the same thing when we try to put together our schedule year after year. It’s a very strong schedule, and a very strong RPI (ratings percentage index) that goes along with that schedule, and we’ve done it again.”
St. Clair’s Spartans are set to play their first five games at home, and their first 11 in California, not leaving the state until Thursday, October 9. In all, 16 of the 20 games are in California.
“Last year, we went out to North Carolina to the Davidson tournament and won that,” explained the Spartan coach. “This year, we are staying a little bit closer to home. The West Coast is as good, if not better, than most regions. We are fortunate to be in a geographic area that provides us with many quality Division I opponents, so year in and year out, we try to take advantage of that. When we are playing a double round robin in the MPSF, there are only so many slots that you can put other teams in (out of conference).”
The 2008 slate begins with the first of two exhibition games, against UC Santa Cruz inside Spartan Stadium on Friday evening, August 22, at 5:00 p.m. San Jose State opens the 2008 season for real exactly one week later, hosting Notre Dame de Namur on Friday, August 29, at Spartan Field beginning at 3:00 p.m.
A marquee match-up is featured next on Sunday, August 31, as the Spartans take on area rival Stanford in prime time at 7:00 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.
Back-to-back mid-week contests follow, with Cal State East Bay paying Spartan Stadium a visit on September 4 for an in-season exhibition match at 7:00 p.m., and the always-tough Dons of the University of San Francisco at Spartan Stadium on Wednesday, September 10, at 7:00 p.m.
The Spartans’ first road trip will take them to Davis, Calif., to face off with 2007 NCAA Championship participant UC Davis on Sunday, September 14, at 1:00 p.m.
Two more home games inside Spartan Stadium, against Cal Poly on Thursday, September 18, at 7:00 p.m., and Seattle University on Sunday, September 21, at 2:30 p.m., lead the Spartans into their annual Rivalry Series match-up with South Bay foe Santa Clara. Seattle, a team that has earned back-to-back NCAA Division II Championship berths, is beginning the process of reclassifying back up to Division I. The Redhawks were the 2004 Division II national champions.
This year’s meeting with Santa Clara is set for a 7:00 p.m. start at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Broncos went 15-1-4 a season ago and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Championship following a first-round bye.
The Santa Clara match signals the start of a season-long five-game road stretch for St. Clair’s squad. The Spartans head south to Bakersfield, Calif., to take on a second opponent reclassifying to Division I in the form of the Roadrunners of Cal State Bakersfield, on Sunday, September 28, at 1:00 p.m.
The conference portion of the schedule begins following that trip. This will be the final year of the current MPSF format for men’s soccer. Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle, both 2008 opponents, join for the 2009 season to make an eight-team conference, with the schedule going from a double round robin to a single, as each team will play the other seven squads once.
The Spartans open the MPSF ledger by making the short drive to Sacramento, Calif., to take on the Sacramento State Hornets at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 5. They will then embark on their annual trip to Albuquerque, N.M., to take on the four-time defending MPSF champion New Mexico Lobos under the lights on Friday, October 10.
The stretch ends in Las Vegas, Nev., against UNLV on Sunday afternoon, October 12, after which San Jose State will close out the regular season with five of seven games at home.
“It is difficult,” remarked St. Clair about the road swing. “It’s not something that we always try to do, but scheduling is something that requires a little bit of give and take. While I would have preferred to have a home game in that mix, it doesn’t always work out that way. Looking forward, I certainly have my eye on that (road segment) a little bit, because that’s the type of a stretch that can really make or break a year. In that stretch, you have two teams that will undoubtedly be in the top 20 (in the nation, Santa Clara and New Mexico), both of them will be away, and three of them will be conference games, so those five matches are really the heart of our schedule. It’s very, very important that we get off to a good start in conference play. We’ve done that the last couple of years. It’s helped us quite a bit. It’s always better to have people chasing you, than you having to chase others.”
The Spartans will host conference foes Denver and Air Force inside Spartan Stadium on Friday, October 17, and Sunday, October 19, respectively. After a full 11 days off from competition, San Jose State then travels to those schools on Friday, October 31, and Sunday, November 2.
A home weekend against UNLV at Spartan Field on Friday, November 7, and New Mexico at Spartan Stadium on Sunday, November 9, will set up Senior Night against Sacramento State, also at Spartan Stadium, beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 15.
The NCAA Championship will begin on Friday, November 21. Once again, the team that finishes the 10-game MPSF schedule with the most points based on three points awarded for victories and one for a tie will earn the league’s automatic entry into the 48-team tournament. The 2008 NCAA Men’s College Cup will be contested in Frisco, Texas, December 12 and 14.
San Jose State finished the 2007 season with an above-.500 overall record at 10-9 and an even 5-5 mark in the MPSF, good for third place. In 2008, the Spartans bring back six seniors and nine starters among 12 total letterwinners. In addition to returning 2007 co-captains Ed Brand, a central defender, and Richard Mann, a goalkeeper, St. Clair recently announced fourth-year senior midfielder Hiroki Akiyama as a third captain for 2008. The remaining seniors are central defender Sam Shore, goalkeeper Lewis Sweeney and fifth-year outside defender Gavin Wenyon. Akiyama and Brand were each second-team All-MPSF selections in 2007, with junior Nick Cukar picking up honorable mention.