MORAGA, Calif. -- The first half of the West Coast Conference men's soccer schedule concludes this weekend with just five points separating first and last place in the team standings.
The league title race could become a little clearer when co-leaders Saint Mary's and Loyola Marymount meet Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Sullivan Field in Los Angeles. Live video streaming and Gametracker statistics from match will be available with links available on SMCGaels.com. Click here to purchase advance tickets.
Saint Mary's enters Friday's match with a 4-5-3 overall record and a 2-1-1 mark in league play, a record that is matched only by the Lions (6-3-2 overall) in WCC competition. SMC opened the conference season with a draw and a win over Gonzaga and Portland at Saint Mary's Stadium, then posted an impressive 4-1 road victory at San Francisco. Three of the Gaels' conference matches so far have required overtime.
The Gaels have lost just once in their last five matches, Sunday's 2-1 overtime setback against Santa Clara, dating back to its trip to Chicago at Northwestern's Lakeside Classic.
However, historically the LMU/San Diego road trip hasn't been kind to teams in the WCC and SMC coach Adam Cooper expects this weekend's trip to Southern California to be no different.
"Going to LMU and San Diego is always one of the toughest road trips of the season," said Cooper, who owns the highest winning percentage in program history. "They are both always difficult teams to play and to face them on the road in the span of a couple of days presents a tough challenge."
After playing to a 2-2- draw to open the WCC season at San Diego, the Lions defeated Santa Clara 4-0 at home before splitting a road trip to Portland/Gonzaga. LMU is outscoring its opponents 20-10 on the season and have scored two or more goals in seven of its 11 matches.
"LMU is having a very good year," said Cooper, who played at UCLA while Lions coach Paul Krumpe was an assistant for the Bruins. "They have shown a lot of character in conference play, winning some games in some difficult situations. They are showing what a dangerous attacking team they are and they have a lot of experience. Then, after playing a tough LMU team, we travel down to San Diego - a team that went to the NCAA Elite Eight last year that has a lot of key players returning."
"We are excited for the trip. Our guys are upset with themselves over their performance on Sunday and they know there isn't a lot of margin for error once you get into conference play. So far, we've positioned ourselves to have a chance to win the conference. More importantly, we have positioned ourselves to control our own destiny. If we can continue to stay focused, play well and find a way to get results, we can stay in control."
Saint Mary's returns to Moraga on Friday, Nov. 1 when they host LMU in a 3 p.m. kickoff at Saint Mary's Stadium. Advance single match tickets, as well as team and group packages, are on sale by visiting the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx (4689).
An enthusiastic crowd of 504 was in attendance on last weekend's beautiful Sunday afternoon to see the Gaels host longtime rival Santa Clara. Cooper and his team look forward to having another great group of fans come out to Saint Mary's Stadium next weekend.
"The crowd was phenomenal on Sunday against Santa Clara," said Cooper. "We always want to perform well in front of our home fans and we were disappointed we couldn't send them home with a victory. But, they were great, their support was huge and we look forward to playing in front our students and fans in a couple of weeks."