Men’s soccer opens home schedule with ‘Gold Game’

Zane Clodfelter

Looking to build off a winning-season in 2012, Head Coach Mat Santoro and his men’s soccer team opens the USI athletics schedule Thursday with a match against Cedarville University in Ohio.

“They are a really tough team, and this is a really tough opener,” Santoro said. “Our schedule is really tough to begin with.”

The Eagles were a Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) semifinalist a year ago, and are coming off an 11-win campaign under Santoro, who also begins his fifth year at USI tonight.

“Every game matters,” he said. “Our expectations are to improve from last year.”

USI will open its home portion of the 2013 schedule on Sunday against its longtime rival Kentucky Wesleyan (KWC).

The Panthers, who left the GLVC in the off-season, are now members of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC).

The Eagles will also raise awareness for pediatric cancer in the home opener against KWC, wearing gold jerseys and collecting donations during the game. The game promotions are a partnership with, a site dedicated to raising awareness for childhood cancers.

The team is calling it the “Gold Game.”

“We expect a really big crowd,” Santoro said. “It’s a very important cause that doesn’t get as much awareness.”

USI chose the date because September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month.

Santoro goes into the home opener with plenty of veteran leaders. He has 10 seniors returning in 2010.

“We have a deep group,” he said. “A lot of leadership comes from the seniors.”

The Eagles will open GLVC play at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13, at Strassweg Field on campus, opening the conference slate against Illinois-Springfield (UIS).

USI went 5-4 last year at home and have eight games scheduled this season.

Last season, the Eagles topped UIS 1-0, getting the lone goal in the game from Jeffrey McClure who is one of seven seniors lost from last year’s 11-7 team.