JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With 11 of its 17 regular-season matches hosted inside the friendly confines of Southern Oak Stadium, Dolphin fans will have plenty of opportunities to join the men's soccer team in its pursuit of a legacy-building season after JU came within one game of an ASUN Conference title in 2016.
The Dolphins open the season with an exhibition against crosstown foe Trinity Baptist College on Aug. 15, the start of six consecutive home matches.
"We've been able to balance our schedule with some very difficult home games as well as a highly competitive away schedule," said Head Coach Mauricio Ruiz. "Our goal is to prepare ourselves for our ASUN Conference opponents by playing national caliber opposition. That will put us in a good position to challenge for the regular season title as well as get a home seed for the ASUN tournament."
USC Sumter will come to town on Aug. 19 for a second preseason exhibition, and UNC Wilmington will open the regular season on Aug. 25. Last season the match between the Dolphins and the Seahawks was cancelled.
JU will host Campbell (Aug. 27), UAB (Sept. 1), and UCF (Sept. 4) before opening its road schedule at Gardner-Webb on Sept. 8. The Dolphins will play three more consecutive road games, including at Georgia Southern (Sept. 10), at Charlotte (Sept. 17), and its ASUN opener at reigning ASUN champs FGCU on Sept. 23. The Eagles narrowly defeated the Dolphins, 3-2, in the ASUN Championship last season.
The Dolphins close out the month of September by returning home for a match against Georgia State on Sept. 30, and then open October with home matches against Florida Atlantic (Oct. 3) and USC Upstate (Oct. 7). A brief jaunt up to NJIT on Oct. 14 will break up the homestand, but JU will close out the home docket against ASUN rivals Stetson (Oct. 20) and North Florida (Oct. 25). A match at Lipscomb will close the regular season on Oct. 28.
The 2017 regular season features five matches against NCAA RPI Top 100, including Charlotte (#20), FGCU (#36), Georgia State (#61), North Florida (#38), and Lipscomb (#49).
The ASUN tournament begins Nov. 3 with the championship match slated for Nov. 11.
Ruiz welcomes 21 returners to his 2017 roster, including all-conference selections Alberto Escobedo and Kai Bennett, Dolphin co-captain and ASUN All-Academic selection Ignazio Muccilli, and Dolphin co-captain Allan Morgan.
10 student-athletes will join the men's soccer team as it builds on its legacy in 2017. Eight of those 10 student-athletes are freshmen, and two are transfers. Freshmen Nazar Deputat, Daniel Wear, Bryson Pink, and Steven Saunders all competed with the LEG AZ U19 squad in the USYS South Regional. Their team lost in the semi-final of the USYS South Regional tournament after winning the 2017 FYSA State Cup for the second time in three years. Nicholas Reyes and Pink are training with Escobedo and Dani Carapaica at Orbita Football LLC.
Incoming freshman goalkeeper John Pease joined future teammate Connar Lufkin in training with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and transfer Lee Nicholson is playing with Durham United FA and has one goal and an assist in five appearances, all starts.
"Our ultimate objective is to reach the NCAA tournament, and we came within one game of that objective last year," said Ruiz. "I'm confident that with the combination of maturity and desire of our returners and the eagerness of the newcomers joining the program, this schedule will put us in a great place to reach our goals."