JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - A nationally ranked encounter is on tap Wednesday, Oct. 24 at McCown Field as No. 20 Carson-Newman will host No. 13 Limestone. Kickoff under the lights is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
The match has NCAA tournament implications as the Saints (13-1) currently hold the No. 3 position in the Southeast Region rankings with the Eagles (10-3) at No. 6. The top-eight teams in the region earn a trip to the tournament while the top two teams in each region will be granted a first-round bye and will get to play as the host institution.
C-N has already clinched the regular season South Atlantic Conference Championship for the fourth-consecutive season following Saturday's 3-0 win over Wingate but will look to improve on its rankings with one of the tougher schedules in all of Division II.
"There's a reason why we set up our schedule the way we did this year," Coach Simon Duffy said. "We want to be tested so we're prepared for the postseason and I think we've done a good job of that so far. That regular season title is just tier one of what we want to do here but you have to move on especially since it's a team you could see again. I'm proud of what we are accomplishing other than a speed bump or two, but we still have a lot we want to do."
Limestone will be the third ranked team that C-N has matched up against in 2018 since they opened up the year against No. 10 West Florida and No. 12 Columbus State. Simon Duffy's group fell in both contests but were notably without its starters in goalkeeper Jackie Burns (Cookstown, Northern Ireland) and midfielder Catarina Realista (Lisbon, Portugal) who were on international duties for their respective countries. CSU is currently ranked fourth in the nation with its rights to the southeast region No. 1 position while West Florida is currently No. 2 in the nation.
"This is the most important game of the season thus far," Duffy said. "I think that's obvious and that's how we want to approach every game. They're very dynamic moving forward and they have a lot of good players. They're dangerous and they play good football. It'll be a free-flowing game and I'm expecting them to come in and be up for it but our girls definitely understand the importance."
C-N and Limestone have met just four times as the Eagles hold a 3-1 series lead outscoring the Saints 10-2. The last time these two teams saw each other came in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament in which sixth-seeded C-N defeated third-seeded Limestone 2-0 in Dahlonega, Ga. 11 Eagles still remain from that 2016 squad.
The Eagles have not lost a home regular season match to a non-conference opponent since the beginning of the 2015 season in a loss to Ohio Dominican, a win streak which currently sits at five games.
Coach Duffy is just one win away from collecting his 100th-career victory as he looks to build on an already impressive resume at the helm. In his second season, Duffy hones a 31-4-1 overall record and a 14-1-1 record when protecting his own stomping grounds.
Limestone is likely the toughest opponent C-N has faced at this point in the season when being at full strength. A formidable Saints offense has scored 50 goals on the season and attempted more than 350 shots while outscoring teams 50-6.
Limestone's lone loss of the season came on Sept. 12 to North Georgia (3-1) who is currently second in the NCAA Southeast Region Rankings and currently No. 25 in the nation. North Georgia was unranked at the time when Limestone occupied the No. 18 spot.
The Saints are currently on a 10-game win streak since the loss, outscoring opponents 38-5 which also included six-straight clean sheets from Sept. 13 to Oct. 6.
Anderson and Lenoir-Rhyne are the other SAC teams to matchup with the Saints during the 2018 campaign. Anderson fell on their home field 3-0 on Sept. 5 while L-R fell 2-1 in Gaffney, S.C. on Oct. 10.
The Saints are 6-5-1 against SAC opponents over the last three-plus seasons with the last regular season loss a 1-0 overtime final at the hands of the aforementioned Bears to kick off 2017.
LC went 17-3-1 in 2017 and 11-0 in Conference Carolinas play as they defeated Lees-McRae 1-0 to win the league title. The Saints would go on to lose to Flagler in the first round of the tournament 3-0.
Sam Holmes was named Head Coach of the women's soccer program on January 16, 2017, following three years as an assistant with the Saints. He holds a very similar overall record to Simon Duffy at 30-4-1 in his second season.
The match will be available via live stream at cneagles.com/live.