LUBBOCK, Texas – The Texas Tech soccer team held its first practice of the 2017 season on Wednesday morning at the John Walker Soccer Complex.
The 2017 squad features 19 returners from last year's team, while 11 newcomers join the fray. Most of the defensive unit from a year ago returns, as well as all of its goal scorers from 2016.
"We were a good defensive team last year," head coach Tom Stone said. "Hopefully, we'll look different on the offensive end. We were a solid possession team, kind of immature, which was just based on our age. But now that sophomore group are juniors and they are ballers. They're tough, they're leaders and our freshmen don't act like freshmen anymore. I just like the maturity of this group better and I think we'll be better on the offensive half."
In his 11th season at the helm of the Red Raider program, Stone has put together a schedule that features six 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, including the NCAA College Cup runner-up in West Virginia, as well as three conference champions. Among Tech's 18 matches in 2017, 11 are against teams that posted double digit win totals last season, while six were ranked by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and five finished in the top 50 of the NCAA RPI rankings in 2016.
The Red Raiders will host eight matches at the John Walker Soccer Complex this season. The home opener is slated for a 7 p.m. start on Sunday, Sept. 3, against Appalachian State. Tech will also face off against non-conference foes in: San Diego State (Sept. 15) and Cal State-Northridge (Sept. 17), before a home conference schedule that consists of: Kansas State (Sept. 22), Kansas (Sept. 24), TCU (Oct. 1), Oklahoma State (Oct. 13) and Oklahoma (Oct. 27).
"We like the fact that we're testing our team early," Stone said. "We're playing some really good teams at the front end of our schedule to get us ready for Big 12 play. This team has a lot of good players, but who wins games in college soccer? It's the teams with grit and attitude who are strong and want to compete. It's the shortest season in the NCAA, it's 12 weeks. So early on if you're not bringing those things out and you're begging them to do it later, you're in trouble. So, let's get that aspect on the table right now and let the talent carry us when it has to."
The 24th season of Texas Tech soccer begins with the annual exhibition in Denver on Aug. 12, before the season opener against Grand Canyon on Aug. 18 in Albuquerque at the Lobo Invitational.