NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - While the fall semester may not start for a couple more weeks at SFA, the soccer team is already preparing for their first match of the season. Friday night the Ladyjacks will face the University of Houston at home in Nacogdoches as they begin a tough non-conference schedule.
The Ladyjacks will be tested early and often this season before beginning Southland Conference play as the defending champions. SFA faces 3 teams from the Big 12, 2 from Conference USA and 1 from the SEC. Coach Tony Amato says facing tough competition right away will be a good gauge for his senior-filled team.
"It is important to play against good competition and it is important to get a positive result on the first game," said Amato. "We have a very strong non-conference schedule and this (Houston) really kicks it off for us, so we are looking forward to it."
The Ladyjacks are returning 10 starters from last years squad, and 5 of those players have been named to the preseason first team All-Southland Conference team. But Amato wants the players to focus on continuing to improve this season.
"We have spoke very little about it because it is just on paper and based on past results," said Amato. "We know they can feel confident about the past, but ultimately it doesn't matter unless they perform and improve on the field again this year."
The accolades may just be on paper for now, but the Ladyjacks do not seem to have missed a step from last season if their first scrimmage is any indication. SFA defeated Prarie View A&M 11-0 last week, controlling the game from beginning to end and out shooting their opponent 38-3. But Amato wants to make sure his team understands the level of play will improve drastically on Friday night.
"They know that the level of competition moving forward is going to put them under more pressure," said Amato. "They are not delusional and think every game will be that way. I think they can have confidence because so many chances were created and goals scored, but as far as for the regular season I think this first game will be a key for how confident we are moving forward."
The Ladyjacks were picked to win the Southland Conference again in 2012 by the Southland preseason polls. They also debut at #51 in the country in the first rankings by TopDrawerSoccer.com. The poll helps determine the NCAA tournament field at the end of the season and includes a list of the top 64 teams in the country each week on Monday.
Kickoff for the Ladyjacks first game Friday night is set for 7:00 p.m. in Nacogdoches.