Tigers Host No. 1 SMU
Oct. 20, 2006
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - With only three games left on the 2006 regular season schedule and all eight remaining conference tournament spots still open, the University of Memphis men's soccer team welcomes top-ranked SMU to Mike Rose Soccer Complex on Saturday to kick off the final homestand of 2006.
Eight of nine C-USA teams make the conference tournament. SMU (13-0-2, 3-0-2 C-USA) currently holds first place. The Tigers (9-5-0, 2-3-0 C-USA) sit in a tie for sixth place with FIU. All nine teams remain mathematically alive for the conference tournament.
The Tigers have lost three of their last four matches, including a 2-0 loss at FIU on Sunday, but the Tigers are 5-2-0 in Memphis on the year including a 2-0-0 conference mark.
"We are very much focused on SMU. We're well aware of the importance of the game. It's nice to have the challenge of facing a No. 1 team at home in conference play," Grant said.
The Tiger offense ranks 19th in the nation in scoring offense with 2.07 goals per game. However, after the Florida International loss, a hard-fought win over UAB, and consecutive losses against UCF and Creighton, the Tigers will look for a more complete effort on both offense and defense.
"We've agreed as a squad that we controlled the ball well at Florida International in terms of posession time, but we didn't challenge their back four or create enough scoring opportunities. We're trying to work on getting to the goal with a bit more creativity," Grant said. "We've conceded too many goals lately and we need to remedy that, so I'm also looking for our team defending to step up for this match."
The Tigers are drawing confidence from the fact that the team has returned to full health after dealing with nagging injuries to senior defender Jamie Gilbert, junior forward Jared Britcher, sophomore midfielders Shaun Goulding and Tripp Harkins and sophomore forward Frank Judice.
"Health wise, we finally have a full selection of players, which we haven't had for a while this season. It will be good to be back at full strength," Grant said. "This has been a really tough group. This has been a fantastic team to work with. We've been resilient. We've come from behind. We've had a lot of experiences this season that we're going to need to call on against the best team in the nation."
Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. at Mike Rose Soccer Complex. As part of senior day festivites, the Tigers will honor Jamie Gilbert, the lone senior on the squad, prior to the start of the match.
The Tigers will wrap up their home schedule when they take on Marshall on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7:00 p.m. As usual U of M students with a valid ID and children wearing a soccer jersey will receive free admission.
The Tigers will look to lock up a postseason berth prior to the final match of the season on Oct. 28 when they travel to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.
Fan-Tastic - The University of Memphis men's soccer team is on pace to set a new single season attendance record since moving to the Mike Rose Soccer Complex in 2001. The Tigers have drawn 2,785 fans through the first seven home dates, which is 281 shy of the record of 3,066 set in 2003.
"It's great that the program is moving in the direction of breaking attendance records. It shows the interest in the sport is increasing," Grant said. "We're going to need those fans more than ever this Saturday. That's why C-USA is so tough on the road. You can't ignore the impact of having a lot of fans at your home field. It really does count for something. I want us to break the single-game attendance record as well as the season mark."
The Tigers set a new single-game attendance record at the 2006 home opener, when 923 fans turned out to see the Tigers host No. 5 Clemson.
Series History - Saturday's meeting between SMU and Memphis will mark the fourth meeting between the two schools. The Mustangs hold the all-time advantage, winning the first three games by a combined score of 18-1.
The two schools first met up in 1982. The fledgling Tigers lost at SMU 9-0 in their inaugural season.
The two schools met again nine years later at a midseason tournament at TCU. The Tigers, in their third season under Richie Grant, had tied No. 1 Creighton in the season opener. However, Memphis wasn't as fortunate against SMU, who took over the No. 1 ranking in time for their match with the Tigers, and claimed a 7-0 victory.
Conference USA underwent realignment in 2005 and added SMU to the field, giving the conference a perennial soccer powerhouse. In the first match between the new conference foes, Memphis took a 1-0 lead late into the second half, but two quick strikes by SMU stole the 2-1 victory.
The Tigers will look to break through for their first ever win against the Mustangs. Should the Tigers win, it would also be their first ever victory over a top-ranked opponent.
Guns and Roses - The Tiger offense has provided a lot of fire power at Mike Rose Socce Complex. In seven home matches, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 18-8. The Tigers have scored three or more goals in four home matches en route to a 5-2-0 home record (2-0-0 in C-USA).
Always Be Closing - The University of Memphis men's soccer team knows how to close a lead. The Tigers have won all seven 2006 matches in which they have scored first.