Men’s soccer releases 2011 schedule
To qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2008, the JU men’s soccer team will face a challenging non-conference slate before ending the regular season with eight straight Atlantic Sun Conference matchups, as the Dolphins released its 2011 schedule on Wednesday.

JU will oppose two teams (UCF and ETSU) that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year as part of a 17-game regular season fixture. The Dolphins posted a 9-9-2 overall record last season and a 3-5-1 conference mark en route to advancing to the A-Sun Semifinals.

“We took a step forward as a program in 2010 from the previous year and we’re hoping to build off that success,” head coach Mike Johnson said. “We have many returning players who should benefit from the additional experience and be ready to make a run in the always-competitive A-Sun.”

Johnson will enter his ninth season with a chance to get off to a fast start at home. The Dolphins will play all three of its scheduled exhibitions at the Ashley Sports Complex before hosting UCF in the season opener on Aug. 26. The Knights are coming off an appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after a 12-5-3 campaign, marking the most accomplished non-league opponent the Dolphins will face in the new year.

The Dolphins will get a chance to start the season in familiar surroundings as the team will not have to leave the Sunshine State for first five total weeks. After the opener, JU will welcome UMass on Sept. 4. before heading to Miami for two games in three days against Florida Atlantic (Sept. 9) and FIU (Sept. 11). JU will then head to DeLand, Fla. to face Temple on Sept. 16 before returning to Jacksonville for a three-game homestand versus Furman (Sept. 18), George Washington (Sept. 23) and UC Riverside (Sept. 25).

A trek north to face Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Ga. on Sept. 28 will conclude the non-conference portion. JU will then cap the regular season with eight A-Sun contests in a 28-day span, starting with the league opener at Mercer on Oct. 10.

The Dolphins will welcome USC Upstate in the A-Sun home opener on Oct. 7 before hosting reigning conference champion ETSU two days later. That contest will be a litmus test for the Dolphins as the Bucs went 15-6-0 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

JU will then play three of its next four on the road, including a trip through Nashville, Tenn. to face Lipscomb (Oct. 14) and Belmont (Oct. 16). The Dolphins will then head home to face cross-town rival UNF on Oct. 23.

The River City contest will segue into an important road game against FGCU in Fort Myers, Fla. on Oct. 27. The Eagles claimed the highest 2010 winning percentage out of any JU opponent after going 13-3-2 and 9-0 against the A-Sun. While FGCU was ineligible for A-Sun Tournament play because of its status during the NCAA reclassifying period, the Eagles surrendered just two goals in 810 minutes against league opponents.

JU rounds out the regular season by hosting Stetson on Oct. 30. For the third consecutive year, the A-Sun Tournament will stretch into two weekends again for the right to earn a berth to the NCAA College Cup. The first round is set for Nov. 5, while the semifinals at the No. 1 seed's home field begin on Nov. 10.

- By Brian Bohl