DES MOINES, Iowa - The Drake men's soccer team, under the direction of 15th-year head coach Sean Holmes, has announced a challenging 20-game schedule for 2012, including dates with six 2011 NCAA Tournament participants.
Drake returns three starters from a squad that registered an 11-8-1 record last fall, including 3-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"Our early schedule is as aggressive and competitive a slate as we've ever assembled," Holmes commented. "We felt that with the maturation of our current crop of guys that we wanted to go out and challenge all-comers, and that's what we did."
"Our boys will be ready and given the right results we should be in the right position when we go into the cauldron of the MVC come Sept. 29 against Creighton."
The Bulldogs will be challenged by their lone exhibition in preparation for their season against Nebraska-Omaha on Aug. 15 at the Cownie Soccer Complex.
Drake officially kicks off its campaign battling Cincinnati on Aug. 24 in St. Louis, before facing Saint Louis on Aug. 26 to close out the squad's opening weekend.
The Bulldogs commence the home portion of their schedule on Aug. 31 squaring off against 2011 NCAA Tournament participant Loyola of Chicago at the Cownie Soccer Complex, before closing out their homestand entertaining Marquette on Sept. 2.
In the first of six-consecutive road contests, Drake visits DeKalb, Ill., to compete in Northern Illinois' tournament against Northwestern and the host Huskies on Sept. 7 and Sept. 9, respectively. Both Northern Illinois and the Wildcats qualified for the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
The following weekend the Bulldogs head to Omaha, Neb., to compete against Old Dominion and William and Mary on Sept. 14 and Sept. 16, respectively.
Drake visits the Windy City for a date with DePaul on Sept. 19 before closing its road swing at Memphis (Sept. 22).
In the first of three MVC home contests, the Bulldogs round out the month of September opening league play versus 2011 College Cup participant Creighton on Sept. 29.
A non-conference date against 2011 Summit League Tournament champion Western Illinois follows on Oct. 3 before the Bulldogs resume league action.
Drake also hosts Central Arkansas (Oct. 6) and Evansville (Oct. 27) in conference play, while facing road dates at 2011 NCAA Tournament participant Bradley (Oct. 17), SIU Edwardsville (Oct. 20) and Missouri State (Nov. 2).
The Evansville contest will be the highlight of Drake's eighth annual alumni weekend.
Rounding out the non-conference schedule is a visit to UMKC on Oct. 10 before the third annual Ralph Gross Classic on Oct. 13 as Illinois at Chicago (UIC) visits the Cownie Soccer Complex.
The site of the 2012 State Farm MVC Championship has yet to be determined but will be held Nov. 7-11.