JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The 2018 Carson-Newman men's soccer season officially commences on Saturday as the Eagles make their way to Morrow, Ga. for a showdown with Clayton State at 7 p.m.
The 2018 road opener marks the first of six matches that will be played away from the friendly confines of McCown Field this season. This will also be the second-straight season that C-N will kick of its year away from Mossy Creek, the first set of back-to-back road starts since 2013 and 2014. Season opening games on the road have seen the Eagles go 4-6-1 since 1989. Overall, C-N has gone 13-14-2 in games kicking off the season.
"The boys have trained well, trained hard and have started to buy into some of the things that we're asking of them,"second-year head coach Stephen Lyons said. "We've got to go into every game with the mindset that we're going to work hard and implement the game plan in order to try to get the result that we want."
Lyons' crew comes into the new year following a 9-7-2 campaign in 2017 with a third-place finish in the South Atlantic Conference standings. The season coming to a bitter end in the SAC Tournament quarterfinals with a 3-2 overtime loss to Queens, closing the book with a four-game losing streak.
The Eagles amassed a streak of eight consecutive clean sheets through the season, including a 1-0 shutout victory over No. 5 Lenoir-Rhyne. C-N pieced together a nine-game unbeaten streak during the season, including seven consecutive wins.
Carson-Newman as a team led the league in shutout percentage at .500, a clip that was good enough for 15th in the nation.
The Lakers wrapped up the 2017 year with a fifth-place finish in the Peach Belt Conference and an 8-9-1 record, 2-4-1 in league matches. Clayton State made it to the PBC semifinals for the first time since 2014, falling to Lander, 5-1.
The Lakers were in the top three of three statistical categories in the PBC in 2017. Their 2.17 scoring offense was third-best, 12.50 fouls per game were second-best and 38 yellow cards were a league-best.
Midfielder Kwaku Dwamena and forward Dean Foster were named All-PBC First Team members at the end of the season before making it to the preseason All-Conference team this year. Defender Jordan Knight taking second-team honors. Mitro Turunen won Co-Freshman of the Year honors, the fifth to do so in program history and the first since 2010. All four make returns for the Lakers this year.
This season, the Clayton State squad led by 15-year head coach Pete Peterson was elected to finish fourth in the league's preseason poll.
Clayton State comes into the match with a 0-1-0 record, after falling to Queens in the home opener on Thursday at Laker Field with a 1-0 tally that took two overtimes to decide a winner. The two teams were pitted in a deadlock through three frames of play before Edmundo Robinson connected with the back left corner of the goal from far right of the pitch.
Leauri Fraire and Kari Puustinen split time in front of the net for the Lakers in the game, accounting for a combined 15 saves.
Knight was ejected from the game in the 63rd minute after receiving his second yellow card.
The series history between the Lakers and Eagles sits even at 1-1-0, dating back to 1998 when the Lakers captured the first win in the series, 3-2.
The last meeting between the two came just a year ago with the Eagles opening their home schedule in victorious fashion. The 4-2 C-N win was highlighted by a Tobias Solem Karlsen (Kongsvinger, Norway) hat trick, the first by an Eagle since Nick Skoda scored one over Belmont Abbey in 2015.
The Eagles opened the match with three goals in the first 10 minutes thanks to a pair from Karlsen and one from Ashley Kelynack (High Wycombe, England). Dean Foster put the Lakers on the board midway through the first half while a Sekou Thornell goal in the 84th minute was not enough to stop the Eagles.
"Every year, you're going to face a new team," Lyons mentioned. "Last year, I felt that early in the game, we really took our opportunities and almost killed the game off before halftime. I actually felt Clayton State were stronger than what the result gave them credit for and the second half really showed that."
Saturday's match from Laker Field will begin at 7 p.m. Updates throughout the game can be found on Twitter through @CNathletics.