University of South Carolina head men’s soccer coach Mark Berson announced on Wednesday his team’s schedule for the upcoming 2011 season. For the defending Conference USA Tournament champions, the slate features contests against four teams ranked in the final 2010 NSCAA Top 25 Poll and eight teams that advanced to the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Three of those teams advanced to the Round of 16 and one to the College Cup, while 12 of the 18 regular-season opponents for 2011 amassed double-digit win totals last season. The Gamecocks will host 11 home dates at Stone Stadium, including one exhibition contest this fall.
"This is a tremendous schedule, which will bring some of the top teams in the nation here to Columbia," Berson said. "We will have to replace a lot of veteran leadership off of last year's team, but I know our guys will be up to the challenge. Our objective is to build on our Conference USA championship and move forward. We have a lot more to accomplish, and this year’s schedule will provide us with some great opportunities."
South Carolina finished last season ranked No. 12 in the final NSCAA Top 25 poll after winning the Conference USA Tournament to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Carolina earned the No. 7 national seed in the event, and advanced to the Round of 16 by earning a first-round bye, and defeating Duke in the second round on a golden goal in overtime at Stone Stadium.
From the final NSCAA poll, South Carolina will play at 16th-ranked Dartmouth in the Dartmouth Classic in early September, before hosting No. 10 Brown at the annual Gamecock Classic the following weekend. Eighth-ranked SMU will visit Stone Stadium in Conference USA play in mid-October, before No. 3 North Carolina, who advanced to the 2010 College Cup, will visit Columbia in early November.
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The Gamecocks kick off the season hosting Elon in an exhibition contest on Aug. 21 before traveling to NCAA participant College of Charleston in the season opener on Aug. 27. South Carolina continues non-conference play when it travels to Clemson on Sept. 2 for a 7 p.m. contest at Riggs Field. Carolina has won four-consecutive contests against the Tigers, all shutouts, entering the 2011 campaign.
After hosting Charlotte, last season’s Atlantic 10 regular-season champs, on Sept. 6, the Gamecocks travel to face nationally prominent foes Dartmouth and Bradley at the Dartmouth Classic, Sept. 9-11. The Big Green advanced to its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament in 2010, while the Braves also participated in the postseason event. South Carolina returns home to host Brown and High Point in the annual Gamecock Classic, Sept. 16-18, at Stone Stadium. Brown advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16, while High Point, who tallied a stellar 16 wins in 2010, fell just short of postseason play, falling in the finals of the Big South Tournament.
Wake Forest will visit Columbia for a non-conference matchup on Sept. 21, before Carolina opens C-USA play at Memphis on Sept. 24. A rematch of the 2010 Conference USA Tournament championship game between the Gamecocks and Tulsa will take place at Stone Stadium on Sept. 30. The Golden Hurricane earned an at-large bid to last season’s NCAA Tournament, advancing to the second round.
Consecutive away contests follow, as Carolina travels to UAB on Oct. 4, before continuing league play at UCF on Oct. 8. South Carolina returns to Columbia for three-straight contests in mid-October, first hosting SMU on Oct. 12, before entertaining Marshall (Oct. 15) and non-conference foe NC State (Oct. 18). The Gamecocks play their final regular-season away contest at FIU on Oct. 22 before hosting College Cup participant North Carolina (Oct. 25) and Kentucky (Nov. 4) to close out the regular season.
The 2011 Conference USA Tournament will be hosted by Tulsa at the Hurricane Soccer Stadium, Nov. 9-13. The event will feature the top six teams from the league.
-- Staff reports