The University of St. Thomas (UST) women's soccer team has released its 2017 schedule, highlighted by trips to two NCAA Division I rivals and three NAIA Top 25 programs. The Celts are coming off a 13-5-1 season in 2016 in which they nearly qualified for the NAIA National Championsihp, falling just short in penalties in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Tournament Championship game.
Each year is a clean slate for teams across the nation, and this is no exception for the UST women's soccer. The program, in its 4th year, has continued to grow. This year the team will play very difficult non-conference schedule as it prepares to possibly make another deep postseason run.
The Celts will open the season with an exhibition on August 11 against local Division I opponent Houston Baptist University. The regular season will commence on the road against Division I Texas Southern University on August 20. Last season, the Tigers finished with a record of 11-7-1, the best in school history.
The Celts will continue on the road with their first out-of state trip to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to take on traditional NAIA powerhouses William Carey University and the University of Mobile in non-conference games on August 24 and 26. The Crusaders closed last season ranked No.10 in the NAIA Coaches' Pool and the Rams were ranked No. 13.
The Celts will play another NAIA powerhouse, Oklahoma City University, at a neutral ground in San Antonio, Texas on September 3 before completing their run of non-conference games against NCAA Division I program, Prairie View A&M, on September 15 in Prairie View, Texas.
"We know it will be an extremely challenging start but our athletes have worked very hard this spring and summer, and we know a difficult schedule is the best prepare ourselves for conference play. The RRAC is getting progressively more competitive, and to keep up, we have to play against quality teams. It will be good to see where we really are early in the season," said Coach Nikola Barjaktarevic.
RRAC play will commence at home on Saturday, September 23. The UST Student's Sports Club will be organizing a tailgate and other fun activities in conjunction with the home opener. All conference games will be doubleheaders with the men's team playing immediately after the women. Houston Sports Park (HSP), practice facility of Houston Dynamo and the Houston Dash, will again serve as the home for the Celts.
The RRAC added a new team this season, with LSU-Shreveport reinstating soccer after cutting the program back in 2013. The Celts face off against the Pilots in Shreveport on September 30. The RRAC now has a total of 11 teams eligible for the postseason, with Our Lady of The Lake University (OLLU) as the favorite on the women's side and LSU-Alexandria as the favorite on the men's side.
The Celts home game against the University of the Southwest on Oct. 5 is designated as the "Kick Cancer Game", as the Celts continue their effort to raise money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer.
The Celts last two home games against Our Lady of the Lake University and Huston-Tillotson University, on October 19 and 21, will be during the Celts Soccer Family Weekend. Parents will be introduced prior to Thursday's game vs. OLLU. Senior night is set for Saturday evening's game vs. Huston-Tillotson University. Eight graduating seniors will be honored for their hard work and dedication to the women's soccer program.
For the 2017 UST Women's Soccer Schedule link click HERE.