HARROGATE, Tenn. — After a resurgent season for the Lady Railsplitters in 2013, the 2014 Lincoln Memorial University women’s soccer schedule is steeped with quality opponents that could herald a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.
After losing in the quarterfinals of the Food Lion SAC Championship in each of the five previous seasons, the Lady Railsplitters picked up some late momentum and knocked off Catawba and 16th-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne to advance to last season’s title match. LMU suffered a last-minute setback in that championship draw, but the title game appearance was the first for the program since the 2007 season, which was the Lady Railsplitters’ last NCAA tournament run. The Lady Railsplitters concluded the 2013 campaign with a 10-8-1 mark, narrowly missing out on an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.
Looking to take the next step, the Lady Railsplitters are slated for 16 regular-season matches in the quickly approaching 2014 season, hosting seven matches at the LMU Soccer Complex with seven true road tests. Also in the mix, Lincoln Memorial is slated for a pair of neutral site affairs.
The non-conference schedule offers a virtual buffet of in-region opponents, headlined by the season-opening bout against national powerhouse West Florida on Sept. 5 in Columbus, Ga., at the Columbus State Classic. The West Florida Argonauts were the 2013 National Championship runner-up and the 2012 National Champion, finishing last season ranked No.2 in the NSCAA poll. The Lady Railsplitters will also challenge the Peach Belt Conference’s USC-Aiken on Oct. 15 and Conference Carolinas’ Mount Olive on Sept. 7. Wrapping up the non-conference schedule, the Lady Railsplitters host Georgetown (Ky.) of the NAIA ranks on Sept. 17 and travel to Nashville for a bout with Trevecca Nazarene on Oct. 28. The TNU Trojans will be in their first year as full-time members of the NCAA Division II.
With a single contest against each of the Lady Railsplitters’ 11 fellow conference opponents on the docket, the South Atlantic Conference schedule will challenge at every turn. Among the key dates in league play, the Lady Railsplitters open the home schedule on Sept. 13 against the Coker Cobras. On Sept. 27, Lincoln Memorial welcomes the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears to the pitch in Harrogate. The Bears, who qualified for the NCAA tournament last season, have claimed at least a share of the SAC regular-season title for four straight years. In the regular season finale on Nov. 1, the Lady Railsplitters square off against the Wingate Bulldogs with redemption heavy on their minds. On the way to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, the Bulldogs ended LMU’s season with a last-minute goal in the SAC title game. Senior Day is set for Oc. 22 as the Lady Railsplitters welcome Tusculum to town.
The top eight teams in the final SAC regular-season standings earn a spot in the Food Lion SAC Championship field. The top four teams will host the quarterfinal draw on Nov. 4, while the winners advance to the semifinal and final rounds Nov. 7-9 at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, S.C.