From Staff Reports
The Clayton State University men's soccer team is coming off its first trip to the NCAA "Sweet" Sixteen in 2004 and has announced its schedule for 2005 in its quest to take the next step in the Soccer Championships.
Entering its 14th season of play and under the leadership of second-year coach Pete Petersen, Clayton State has 18 matches on tap for what may be the most challenging schedule in school history, as the Lakers will face six teams that were ranked among the best in NCAA Division II last year.
The 2005 Lakers will kick off the fall season, hosting the Second Annual Laker Soccer Shootout on Friday and Saturday, August 26-27 at Laker Field. Peach Belt Conference teams Clayton State and the University of South Carolina Aiken will face Carolina Virginia Athletic Conference teams Belmont Abbey and Queens College in the event.
The tourney will be an early season test, as the Lakers will face Belmont Abbey on Friday at 7:30 p.m., followed by facing Queens on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Belmont Abbey and Queens are traditionally the two top teams from the CVAC.
The match-up against Queens will be a rematch of last year's epic NCAA National Championships first round match, which saw the Lakers advance to the second round of the nationals in penalty kick shootout. The Lakers handed Queens their only loss of the season last year in the season-opening tournament 2-1.
The Royals finished with a 14-1-3 record, a No. 22 ranking and their third straight CVAC championship. Clayton State battled Belmont Abbey, the CVAC's second place team last year, to a 1-1 tie in the tournament.
After the Shootout, Clayton State will host Savannah College of Art & Design, a club led by former Laker coach John Rootes, on Wednesday, August 31st at 7:30 p.m.
The Lakers will then hit the road for a trip to the sunshine state for a tournament in Tampa,, Friday-Sunday, September 2-4, squaring off against the University of Tampa and Eckerd College.
The Lakers will return home for two non-conference games in the second week of the September before opening its Peach Belt schedule on Saturday, September 17th, against new PBC member North Georgia College & State University in a 5 p.m. contest.
After North Georgia, Clayton State will again hit the road, this time for a six-game trip, which includes two Peach Belt matches and two matches against Top-25 teams last year.
Clayton State will open the trip against Tusculum, a squad that finished last season sixth in the nation with a 17-3-1 record, on Wednesday, September 21st. The squad will return to PBC play against USC Aiken on Saturday, September 24 at 3:30 p.m., followed by traveling to take on another tough NCAA Division II foe, out of the Gulf South Conference, in Montevallo. CSU and Montevallo, a team that finished 23rd in the nation last year, battled to scoreless tie last year in a defensive struggle of two of Division II's top defensive units.
The Lakers will conclude the marathon trip on Saturday, October 8th, traveling to face PBC rival Lander in a 1 p.m. match.
For the second straight season, the Lakers will host 2004 PBC champion the University of North Carolina Pembroke for homecoming.
The match slated for Saturday, October 15 will kick off at 3:30 p.m.
The Lakers will try to avenge a season-ending loss to the Braves in last year's NCAA Southeast Regional Championship. UNCP, a team that finished as the nation's fourth ranked team with a 16-3 record, went on to advance to the NCAA Final Four in 2004.
After another PBC match at Francis Marion on Sunday, October 23rd and a non-conference match home match against North Greenville College on Wednesday, October 26th, the Lakers will wrap up the regular season with Senior Day, hosting PBC opponent the University of South Carolina Upstate in a 7 p.m. match on Saturday, October 29th.
Clayton State finished the 2004 season with a 12-4-4 record and advanced for the first time in school history to the "Sweet Sixteen" of the NCAA Division II National Soccer Championships.
The Lakers finished the season ranked 15th in the nation and were ranked in the national poll in early September and remained among the top 25 teams for the entire season, rising as high as 10th in the country.
With Clayton State's returnees and recruiting class, expectations are high for 2005. The Lakers return two All-Americas in seniors Alex Dowling and Juan Trujillo, All-PBC keeper Heath Padgett and former All-Region performer Andre Rall.
The 12-win season in 2004 marked the fifth straight season that the Lakers have won 11 or more matches in a season. Clayton State has a 64-21-13 record over the past five seasons, which includes three trips to the NCAA National Tournament, a "Sweet Sixteen" appearance, a Peach Belt regular season Championship and a Peach Belt Tournament Championship. The Clayton State soccer program has a 117-108-18 record in 13 years.