MOUNT PLEASANT - Head Coach Neil Stafford announced the Central Michigan soccer program's 2012 schedule Wednesday, one that features six-straight road games versus 2011 NCAA Tournament qualifiers.
"One of the most important things in putting together this schedule was wanting to play as many quality opponents and pressure-type games as we could," Stafford said. "We are bringing in a big class and it will help our team get acclimated to the competitive nature of soccer we play at Central Michigan. Our ultimate goal with our non-conference schedule is to be as prepared as possible for Mid-American Conference play and to win the MAC Tournament so we can advance onward."
The Chippewas, who finished 15-3-3 last season and ranked No. 50 in the final NCAA RPI, will open the 2012 campaign with a non-conference tilt at in-state foe Detroit on August 17. They will look to protect their 33-game unbeaten streak at the CMU Soccer Complex two days later versus Evansville.
The Penn State Invitational August 24-26 will open a stretch of six-straight games versus NCAA Championship qualifiers when CMU takes on West Virginia and Penn State. The Mountaineers finished 2011 ranked No. 18 in the country while the Nittany Lions won their 14th-straight Big Ten Tournament title, advanced to the sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the country.
After a trip to Dayton on August 31, the Chippewas will look to avenge their 2010 NCAA Tournament loss to Marquette when they travel to Milwaukee September 3 to take on the Golden Eagles. Marquette fell to Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago and closed the season ranked No. 16.
The six-game stretch will conclude with a cross-country trip to the state of Texas where the Maroon and Gold will take on Texas State September 7 and Texas A&M September 9. TSU won the 2011 Southland Conference title and will move to the Western Athletic Conference in 2012, while the Aggies are making a similar move to the Southeastern Conference after winning their 12th Big 12 title. The Aggies won their opening round match of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Virginia Tech.
One final non-conference tune up before Mid-American Conference play will be on tap September 12 at the Big Ten's Purdue under the lights. The Chippewas defeated the Boilermakers, 2-0, in the 2010 NCAA Tournament for their first ever NCAA Tournament victory.
"As glamorous as the non-conference schedule is, the focus will always be on the preparing us for the MAC," Stafford said. "I want our team to get as much experience in pressure games as possible to prepare us for the MAC portion of our schedule. With the reality of last season still on our minds, we know we have to qualify for the MAC Tournament and win it to advance to the NCAA Tournament and not leave anything to chance."
A return home on September 21 will open conference action versus Kent State and Ohio two days later before the Chippewas embark on a four-game road trip that starts with in-state rivals Western Michigan September 28 and Eastern Michigan September 30.
Toledo, the 2011 MAC Regular Season and Tournament Champion, will host the Chippewas October 5 in a match that could prove pivotal in the 2012 standings. CMU and UT have combined to win the last five regular season titles and last six MAC Tournament crowns. The road trip will close with an October 7 affair at MAC West foe Northern Illinois.
CMU will play its final three home games of the season versus Akron October 12, Buffalo October 14 and Miami October 19. The regular season will conclude at Ball State October 21 and at Bowling Green October 25.
The MAC Tournament will begin October 28 with seeds 1-4 hosting quarterfinal matchups. The highest remaining seed will host the semifinals and championship game November 2-4.