JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Following an appearance in the ASUN Championship Final for the second straight season in 2017, Jacksonville University men's soccer has challenged itself once again in 2018. Head Coach Mauricio Ruiz announced the team's 2018 regular season slate Thursday afternoon, which pins the Dolphins against four NCAA Men's College Cup participants from last year.
"We are excited to announce a national caliber schedule for 2018," Ruiz said. "I have great trust in the balance and ability of our experienced returning players, and our young players that are prepared to play this level of competition."
Looking to build off a 6-10-1 mark from last year, Ruiz will lead the team into competition against nine returning opponents and six teams that ended the 2017 campaign ranked in the top-60 nationally in RPI. Entering his fifth season at the helm of the program, he will be joined by first-year assistant Tom Buckner, as well as former Dolphin players Jack Burns and Juan Arguedas on the team's coaching staff.
Before the 2018 season gets underway, the team will participate in a pair of exhibition scrimmages, hosting Southeastern University on August 13 at 7:00 p.m., and facing off with 2017 foe Georgia State in Jekyll Island, Ga. On Aug. 18 at 11:00 a.m.
For the eighth year in a row, Jacksonville will begin the regular season in the confines of Southern Oak Stadium, welcoming Appalachian State to the River City for the first time since 2015 on Aug. 24 at 7:00 p.m. A two-game home stand to kick of the year continues two days later, when 2017 NCAA Tournament participant Mercer travels south on Aug. 26 at 7:00 p.m. for a non-conference match.
JU begins a three-game road trip with a familiar foe, beginning a long weekend in North Carolina at 2017 opponent UNC-Wilmington on Aug. 30 at 7:00 p.m. The 'Phins stay in the north through the weekend, commencing September competition with a road duel at the University of North Carolina on Sept. 3 at 7:00 p.m. The nationally-ranked Tar Heels ended the 2017 season no. 2 in the nation in RPI and earned a spot in the Men's College Cup Final Four. The team's cross-country road trip concludes on Sept. 8 at 10:30 p.m. EST with a west coast contest at Portland.
Action returns to the First Coast on Sept. 15, as the 'Phins begin a three-game home stand heading into ASUN Conference play with Georgia Southern at 7:00 p.m, continuing the teams' annual battles, which have taken place each year since 2010. JU then renews a past rivalry when it welcomes Texas-Rio Grande Valley to the Sunshine State on Sept. 18 at 7:00 p.m., who faced the Dolphins annually from 1992-97 while the two were members of the Trans America Athletic Conference (which became the ASUN in 2001).
The team begins its 2018 ASUN Conference schedule on Saturday, Sept. 22, when it hosts defending league champion Lipscomb at 7:00 p.m., in a rematch of last season's ASUN Championship Final.
Taking a break from ASUN action, the 'Phins will then travel northwest to Omaha, Nebraska, where it will meet the Blue Jays of Creighton University for the first time in program history on Sept. 25 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Play in the month of September will conclude back at home in league play, with NJIT traveling south for a match on Sept. 29 at 7:00 p.m.
The month of October will see much time spent on the road for the Dolphins, who will embark on a four-game road trip through the first three weeks. The journey begins with in-state opponent Central Florida on Oct. 27 at 7:00 p.m., and continues with the annual River City Rumble match at cross-town rival North Florida on Oct. 12 at 7:00 p.m. Following a mid-week bout at 2017 ASUN Regular Season Champion Stetson on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 7:00 p.m., the team travels to Lynchburg, Va. to duel with new conference foe Liberty University, who makes their ASUN debut this fall.
Jacksonville closes out the 2018 regular season at home for the final two contests, beginning with a Senior Night battle against Florida Atlantic, who they are 3-0-1 against over the last four years, on Sept. 23 at 7:00 p.m. The team's conference slate concludes on Sept. 27 against Florida Gulf Coast at 7:00 p.m.
The 2018 ASUN Championship Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds will take place on Friday, Nov. 2 and Sunday, Nov. respectively, with the top two teams from the regular season earning byes and the rights to serve as host sites. The remaining two competitors will compete for a trip to the 2018 NCAA Tournament in the ASUN Championship Final on Saturday, Nov. 10, to be played at the higher seed.
"Our goal is to win the ASUN Championship and to compete in the NCAA national tournament," Ruiz added. "These opponents will test us throughout the regular season in order to get us ready to meet those goals. We aim to constantly grow as a program, and I believe that playing a highly competitive schedule will allow us to be challenged and prepare us well for conference play."
The following games are scheduled to be broadcast on the ESPN digital platform, as part of Jacksonville's streaming coverage for the 2018-19 athletic season:
Aug. 26 vs. Mercer
Sept. 18 vs. UT- Rio Grande Valley
Sept. 22 vs. Lipscomb
Oct. 27 vs. FGCU
Admission to each home contest is free, with gates opening one hour prior to game time. Be sure to follow JU Men's Soccer on Facebook and Twitter and check JUDolphins.com for additional information on the team, as the 2018 season comes into view.
Click Here to view the full schedule.