WASHINGTON, DC – The 2018 University of the District of Columbia men's soccer schedule was announced by head coach Matt Thompson on Aug. 15.
The Firebirds, coming off the school's first ever NCAA Tournament appearance last season where they advanced to the 2nd round, will take on four teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Tournament, including the reigning NCAA Division II champion, University of Charleston (WV).
"We have a very difficult schedule with many road trips," the seventh-year head coach said. "We have put together a schedule that will test this group of players and coaches, and I think that is great for where we are now as a program."
Right off the bat, UDC opens the season at a tournament in Millersville, PA on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 against two strong regional opponents out of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC), Goldey-Beacom College and Wilmington University.
Goldey-Beacom advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament last season and was picked to finish 3rd in the CACC preseason coaches' poll. Wilmington, who the Firebirds have split four games with in as many years, was picked to finish 1st in the CACC preseason poll.
From there, UDC plays three more non-conference games: a neutral site contest vs. Barton College, a road game at Seton Hill in Greensburg, PA and the finally, its home opener on Sept. 12 vs. Thompson's alma mater, Slippery Rock University.
Thompson, who is being inducted into SRU's Athletic Hall of Fame in September, said he is excited to be involved in that game as The Rock will be coached by his good friend, Kevin Wilhelm.
The Firebirds will then open East Coast Conference play on Sept. 15 at home vs. Queens College where UDC will look to avenge last year's 2-1 loss in Flushing, NY.
"They beat us last season and they will be stronger this coming year," Thompson said. "That will provide a stern test to open up league play."
After the ECC opener, the Firebirds will play another non-conference game on the road vs. No. 16 preseason ranked West Chester University (PA).
The Golden Rams finished 14-3-2 overall and advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament in the Atlantic Region last season.
Then UDC returns to ECC play with a tough slate of four conference opponents, beginning with a road game against its ECC nemesis, New York Institute of Technology. The Firebirds have yet to beat the Bears in Thompson's six-year reign.
"We've had some close games, and one double-overtime loss, but we cannot seem to get over the line against them," Thompson said. "Hopefully that changes this year."
Next are two home games vs. ECC foes Molloy and Bridgeport, followed by a much anticipated road challenge at No. 6 preseason ranked, LIU Post. The Firebirds fell victim to the powerhouse Pioneers three times last season – once in the regular season in overtime after surrendering a 3-1 second half lead, again in the ECC Finals, and once more in the NCAA Tournament 2nd Round.
Shortly after that trip, the Firebirds head out to Charleston, WV to take on the reigning NCAA Division II champion, Golden Eagles, followed by the longest road trip of the season to Rochester, NY to take on ECC foe, Roberts Wesleyan College.
"That will be a tough week, physically and mentally for our student-athletes," Thompson said. "They will need to be prepared well and in good physical condition to compete."
The Firebirds then take on ECC foes Daemen College (at home) and St. Thomas Aquinas College (away) before ultimately ending the season on the road at Mercy College on Oct. 27.
Before the regular season finale, UDC will host its Senior Day game on Oct. 23 vs. non-conference opponent, Lock Haven University.
The East Coast Conference Championship Tournament will begin on Oct. 31 with the semifinal round, and the finals will follow on Nov. 3. The sites of both rounds will be at the higher seed's site.
Thompson, who through six years is approaching 50 wins as UDC head coach, said the UDC men's soccer program has come a long way from when he started in 2012.
"We have come a long way in a short amount of time," he said. "From not having a conference when I first arrived, to making the playoffs and the NCAA Tournament this past season."
Thompson said the team and coaching staff is looking forward to the challenge this fall.
"I think the key word for us as we enter the season is consistency," he said. "We need to find the right balance on and off the field, and prepare the team and individuals for the grind, which is our season."