“Our schedule is always tough,” said St. Clair, who will be entering his 17th season in charge at his alma mater. “We are in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which is a conglomeration of different conferences. It is a very strong conference, as evidenced by New Mexico’s run to the NCAA championship game last season, and us beating them (during the regular season). This year, everybody has gotten better, with the possible exception of us, as we are faced with replacing seven starters. Seven out of 11 starters is a tall, tall order.”
The Spartans will face the 2005 national runner-up University of New Mexico Lobos in a pair of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation contests, in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday, October 6, and again at Spartan Stadium on Sunday, October 29, at 1:00 p.m. San Jose State served as one of just two New Mexico losses in 2005, with a 3-2 overtime upset in Albuquerque last October.
The 2006 campaign begins with a pair of exhibition contests at Spartan Stadium, against Cal State Monterey Bay of the NCAA Division II on Friday, August 18, followed by Cal State East Bay of the NCAA Division III one week later on Friday, August 25.
The Spartans open the new season for real on Sunday, August 27, kicking off a three-game homestand at Spartan Stadium with a 1:00 p.m. afternoon date with Cal State Fullerton of the Big West Conference. The game precedes a tour of Division I Bay Area rivals, as San Jose State first hosts Saint Mary’s on Thursday, August 31, and 2005 NCAA Tournament qualifier San Francisco on Sunday, September 3, with both games set for 7:00 p.m. starts.
The Stanford Nike Invitational Tournament is up next, with SJSU taking on the Cardinal at Maloney Field at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 8, and hosting California at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 10. Cal was narrowly defeated by New Mexico, 1-0 in overtime, in the quarterfinal round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Spartans will next face South Bay rival Santa Clara University in their “Rivalry Series” match-up on Friday, September 15, in Santa Clara, Calif. Game time is 7:00 p.m. at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Broncos took last year’s meeting in San Jose, 2-0, and went on to get knocked out of the NCAA Tournament on penalty kicks by California.
San Jose State concludes the non-conference slate with a home game versus Notre Dame de Namur on Wednesday, September 20, and a road game at Cal Poly, the Spartans’ second Big West Conference opponent of the year, on Tuesday, September 26.
The Cal Poly match signals the start of a season-long four-game road swing. The conference portion of the 2006 schedule begins in Sacramento, Calif., against the Sacramento State Hornets on Sunday, October 1, at 2:30 p.m. Following their key date with the Lobos on October 6, the Spartans head to Las Vegas, Nev., to battle UNLV on Sunday, October 8.
San Jose State plays host to Denver and Air Force on Thursday, October 12, and Sunday, October 15, respectively. The team then turns around and visits both league foes in Colorado the following Friday and Sunday, in the same order. SJSU wraps up both the MPSF and the 2006 regular season with three straight home contests, welcoming UNLV on October 26, New Mexico on October 29, and Sacramento State on Senior Night on Friday, November 3.
The regular-season MPSF champion gains an automatic berth into the 2006 NCAA Tournament, with this year’s Men’s College Cup scheduled for St. Louis, Mo., Friday and Sunday, December 1 and 3.
“New Mexico is very good again,” remarked St. Clair. “Sacramento State only lost two players. Denver and Air Force are always solid. UNLV has a good coach and a new direction. You throw in the area schools that we are playing, in Santa Clara, Cal, Stanford, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s, and there is not a weak spot in the entire schedule. It will be a challenge for us, with as many new faces as we will have.”
San Jose State finished 11-5-3 overall and second in the MPSF with a 7-2-1 league record a season ago, and returns seven letterwinners, including five starters, in 2006. The Spartans will be captained by senior midfielders Daniel Perez and Diego Soto, as well as sophomore defender Ed Brand.