|After a posting a winning record (5-3) so far this season, the Blue Raider soccer team begins Sun Belt play tomorrow night against Arkansas Little-Rock, and continues Sunday against Arkansas State.
Even though the Blue Raiders cannot lose the SBC title during the opening weekend, but they still want to get off to a good start.
“Every game we play is important and is on our schedule to help us prepare for SBC play,” Long-time MTSU head coach Aston Rhoden said. “For us, Sun Belt matches have even more significance as they affect how we finish in the league during the regular season and where we start in the post season. Getting a positive result in these first two conference games is extremely important to us and will give us confidence going forward in future games.”
The Blue Raiders fell in its final non-conference test 3-2 last Sunday at Memphis. It was only the third loss of the season for MTSU. The two other losses were to SEC programs, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.
So far, this season, the Blue Raiders have scored goals, and lots of them. MTSU leads the SBC in several categories, including goals, goals per game, points and assists per game.
One of those leading the Blue Raider offense threats has been Whitney Jorgenson. Currently, Jorgenson in tops in the SBC in points, points per game, total assists and assists per game.
Now, MTSU opens SBC play against the team with the worst record (1-7) in the conference, UALR.
Earlier this season, the Trojans went on a six-match losing streak, with it’s only win coming against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 9. Also, UALR has been outscored 29-7 this season, and has not won a match on the road (0-4).
Rhoden believes regardless of its record, it will be a tough SBC opener.
“This is a very good team despite their current record,” Rhoden said. “They tend to peak around this time of year and have always presented a strong challenge for us both (at) home and away. They have good athleticism in many facets of their team and have always been strong on the counterattack.”
A couple of days later, the Blue Raiders face an Arkansas State University team with the best record (6-3) in the SBC. First, ASU travels to Western Kentucky for a Friday night matchup before coming to Murfreesboro on Sunday.
ASU has won four out of its last five matches, and it has one of the top offensive strikers in the SBC, Christina Fink and one of the top goalkeepers, Aja Aguirre. Both players are near the top in most of the league stat categories.
“ASU is one of the most improved teams in the league,” Rhoden said. “This year they are off to one of their best starts in school history and have played some fairly strong competition. They are very athletic, strong in the back and in midfield and will be a difficult team to break down.
Rhoden is looking for more consistent play out of the Blue Raiders in it hopes to contend for another SBC title.
“We have to be more consistent on both sides of the ball and do this over longer periods during the game,” Rhoden said. “To be competitive in this league, we have to play every SBC game as a single elimination game and not take anyone for granted. It’s a tough league and a long journey to the top. Our discipline must be strong and our on the field leadership even stronger.”
Tomorrow night’s match against UALR begins at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s match starts at 1 p.m. Both matches will be held at the Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium.