A daunting 10-game Southern Conference schedule and non-conference match-ups with household names such as UAB and South Carolina provides a great opportunity for the Bears to play against some of the nation’s top programs according to Ruzzo.
“This 2014 schedule has the makings of one of the toughest collections of games we have put together for our team since I have been here at Mercer,” Ruzzo said. “We definitely challenge ourselves right out of the gate with some tough non-conference match-ups and two early season tournaments. The Southern Conference is traditionally one of the top men’s soccer leagues in the country, so our team is excited to start establishing new rivalries against some great programs this season.”
Mercer finished last season with a 5-14-1 overall record, but qualified for the Atlantic Sun Championship for the sixth-straight season and returns 10 letterwinners to go along with 16 newcomers to make up its 2014 roster.
Following an exhibition match against Division III member Oglethorpe on Aug. 22, Mercer opens its 2014 campaign with back-to-back home games against in-state rival Georgia State on Aug. 29 and Conference USA power UAB on Aug. 31. Georgia State finished last season with a 9-9-1 record and ranked 86th in the RPI while UAB went 12-5-1 in 2013 and finished 35th in the RPI.
The Bears then embark on an eight-game road swing that starts off with matches at Georgia Southern on Sept. 4 and South Carolina on Sept. 7. Mercer defeated the Eagles 1-0 last season while the Gamecocks finished a tough Conference USA slate with a 7-7-5 record and a No. 65 RPI.
Mercer returns to Statesboro the very next weekend to begin its non-conference tournament schedule when it takes on UNC-Asheville on Sept. 12 and Florida Atlantic on Sept. 14 as part of the Georgia Southern Tournament.
The Bears then make their longest trip of the year when they travel to Indiana to take on Evansville on Sept. 19 and Bradley on Sept. 21 as part of the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic. Bradley posted a 14-7-2 overall record, won the Missouri Valley Conference title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
Mercer’s inaugural season in the SoCon gets underway on Sept. 27 at Virginia Military Institute before finally ending its eight-game road swing at East Tennessee State on Oct. 4. ETSU finished 72nd in the RPI and made its second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference title last season.
Mercer returns home for a pair of games at Bear Field against UNC-Greensboro on Oct. 7 and Furman on Oct. 11. UNC-Greensboro finished 75th in the RPI while Furman posted an 11-5-2 record on its way to a final RPI of 42.
Following a road contest at Wofford on Oct. 14, Mercer will recycle through all its league opponents due to the SoCon home-and-home series format this season.
The Bears travel to UNC-Greensboro on Oct. 18 before returning to Macon for home tilts against Wofford on Oct. 21 and VMI on Oct. 25.
After Mercer visits Furman on Oct. 28 and hosts ETSU on Nov. 1, it concludes its 2014 regular season schedule with a home game against North Florida on Nov. 3.
The 2014 SoCon Championship begins on November 8 with the first round held on higher seeded campus sites. The semifinals and finals will be held on November 13 and 15 in Greensboro, N.C. on the campus of UNC-Greensboro.