UCA’s Bishop announces plans for 2017 schedule

After experiencing the most successful season in program history in 2016, the Central Arkansas women’s soccer team knows the road it will have to travel to continue that success in 2017, as head coach Jeremy Bishop recently released the Bears’ 2017 schedule. The Bears will play eight matches at the Bill Stephens Complex on the year, including five against Southland Conference opponents.

“Just like every year, we’re going to have to find where our leadership is going to come from,” said Bishop of his team’s 11 road matches. “We lost a lot of that with Allie Coleman, Shelby Wilson, Chele Naudin and Kelsey Johnson leaving, so we’ve got to figure that out early on. We’ve got a really big senior class, and I know we’ve got some leaders there, we just have to figure out how it’s all going to come together so that the team can be the unit that it needs to be.”

After heading to Cape Girardeau, Mo., for an exhibition match against Southeast Missouri State on Friday, Aug. 11, the Bears will open the season in earnest with a pair of in-state road matches the weekend of Aug. 18-20. UCA will head to Little Rock for a 7 p.m. match against the Trojans on Friday, Aug. 18, before taking on UAPB at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20, in Pine Bluff.

Central Arkansas will make its home debut on Friday, Aug. 25, in a doubleheader with the men’s soccer team, hosting Missouri State at 6 p.m., before closing the weekend on the road by travelling to Starkville, Miss., to face off against Mississippi State at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27.

UCA will open September at home, facing ULM at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, before welcoming in-state foe Arkansas State to the Stephens at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3.

The Bears will them embark on a three-match road trip that will lead into Southland Conference play. UCA will head to Manhattan, Kan., to face off against Kansas State at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, before closing out non-conference play at Oral Roberts at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10.

“I think we’re really fortunate in our location to have some quality opponents in what would be considered local or regional games,” said Bishop of his non-conference schedule. “It’s awesome to be able to play good games just down the road in Little Rock, Monroe, Jonesboro or Springfield, so we’re really fortunate to have those teams close. We’ve got some good rivalries going, and we’ve been playing those same matches for several years now. It’s been good for both programs and for us to have those levels of matches leading up to our conference season.”

Bishop also highlighted his squad’s final non-conference road trip, saying, “That trip to K-State and Oral Roberts will be a really tough weekend, heading right into conference season. Hopefully that’ll be a really good gauge to show that we’ve been able to iron things out throughout the season and to have those two big tests going into conference will be good for us.”

The Bears will open SLC play on the road this season, facing off against Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, in Huntsville, Texas, before returning to the Stephens to take on Lamar (7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22) and McNeese (1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24). UCA will close out the month on the road, traveling to Abilene Christian (7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29) and Incarnate Word (1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1).

Central Arkansas will close out its home schedule with three games in the first half of October, welcoming Stephen F. Austin (7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13) and Houston Baptist (1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15), before closing out the regular season with its final three games on the road. The Bears will play at Nicholls (4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20) and Southeastern Louisiana (1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27), before ending the season at Northwestern State (7 p.m. Friday, October 27).

“We’ve got an odd number of games, which means every other year we’re behind in road games, and this is that year,” said Bishop of the Bears’ SLC slate, which features five home matches and six road tilts.

“It’s going to be a tough schedule. We’ve got some of the teams that were at the top of the league coming to us, in SFA and Houston Baptist, so that’ll be good for us. But we have to make the trip to Thibodaux and Hammond which is always a tough one, and we have to go out to Abilene and San Antonio; so those are two really big road trips for us. But it’ll be nice to have SFA and HBU here. You never know who’s going to be at the top of the conference when you get to the end obviously, but based on the past, I’d say those are definitely the weekends to keep an eye on.”

The Southland Conference tournament will return to Corpus Christi, Texas this season, to be hosted by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Tournament play will start on Wednesday, Nov. 1, with the semifinal round set for Friday, Nov. 3. The Championship Match will take place on Sunday, Nov. 5.