After nearly a week on the practice field under its belt, the USC Upstate men’s soccer team is set to begin the 2015 season with its exhibition opener against Belmont Abbey Monday night at 7 p.m. at County University Soccer Stadium.
The game against Belmont Abbey is the first of three exhibitions the Spartans will play in preparation for the regular season. Upstate will also face Bob Jones on Aug. 20 and Bluefield on Aug. 25 in the other exhibitions. All three preseason games will be played at home.
Upstate will open the regular season on Aug. 28 against UNC Asheville at 7:30 p.m. in a doubleheader with the women’s soccer team. The women’s soccer team faces Alabama State that evening at 5 p.m.
“The team looks good at this point,” said Upstate head coach Greg Hooks, who is beginning his 26th year as a head coach and 19th at the helm of the Spartan program. “We are early in the preseason so there are still a lot of areas in which we need to improve, but I am optimistic that this team will do well. The main reason that we play the exhibitions is to see how we look against outside competition in match conditions. The feedback from these matches will help prepare us for the regular season games.”
Upstate is coming off an appearance in the A-Sun Tournament in 2014 and looks to build on that momentum with a solid core of returning players. A-Sun all-freshman selections Heiko Allmendinger and Lukas Sommer join Leon Schwarzer, who was an A-Sun all-freshman pick by CollegeSportsMadness.com, to look to lead the corps of returning players. The Spartans return seven starters and 15 lettermen from last year’s squad.
The strength of the team will be in the midfield and on defense. All seven returning starters are found in those positions, including goalkeeper Hassan Haddad and defenders Sommer, Tucker Beerman and Joshua Jenkins. Schwarzer, who tied for the team lead and ranked among the A-Sun leaders with five assists last year, and Allmendinger lead the unit in the midfield.
Fans are encouraged to attend the games throughout the season with all fans receiving free admission to every home match this year. The athletic department has also overhauled its promotions efforts offered at the games for the season as well.