AU’s fall sports teams have been ready to roll since early August. The field hockey team hosted a scrimmage against the University of Virginia on the newly-renovated Jacobs Complex and both men’s and women’s soccer played exhibitions on Reeves Field. The volleyball team will start their season a smidge later on Aug. 24 for their first home game against George Mason.
As the first-game-of-the-season jitters subside, here are the matchups fans won’t want to miss this fall.
With a new field and a slate of returning valuable players, AU’s field hockey team hopes to finish their 2018-19 season with another Patriot League championship trophy.
While the Eagles made it into the 2017-18 postseason following a 2016-17 PL championship, their season came to an abrupt end with a 2-1 PL semifinal shootout loss to Bucknell. The Bison’s sophomore forward Kaelyn Long scored on AU’s senior goalie Maura Jacobs after two overtime periods and three back-and-forth shots on goal.
This season, the Eagles will face off against former champions in the form of the University of Connecticut and the University of Delaware. The UConn Huskies won the NCAA national championship last year following a perfect season. The two teams will play on Jacobs Field on Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. The Eagles will face off against the University of Delaware, the 2016 NCAA National Champions, in College Park, Md., on Sept. 9 at 3 p.m.
In conference play, the Eagles will face tough matchups against Boston University and Bucknell. The rematch between Long of Bucknell and Jacobs of AU will take place on Oct. 6 at 11 a.m. at Bucknell.
AU volleyball has a legacy to protect after winning 15 Patriot League championships and making five straight appearances in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles beat Navy 3-0 to win the PL Championship last season, and their season finished after losing 0-3 to Brigham Young University in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Utah. After a successful season last year, including an 18-win streak before their season-ending loss and only loss within the PL (Navy), two NCAA semi-finalists will battle against AU in Bender this year
Penn State won the Big Ten Conference last season and made it to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament last season. The Nittany Lions will play in Bender on Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.
The other NCAA semi-finalist to visit AU: Stanford University, which won the Pac-12 Conference last season. The Cardinals will play in Bender on Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. for the volleyball team’s annual Welcome Week game and second home game of the season after hosting George Mason two days prior. The game will also be a “Bender Blue Out District Day” hosted by the AU Blue Crew, during which students can pick up free T-shirts and other free swag.
In conference play, AU will face Navy again this season in Bender on Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. Senior outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala, last year’s Patriot League tournament MVP, will be returning to the court for her last season and is sure to bring her A-game against some of the conference’s tougher opponents.
AU’s women’s soccer team finished a disappointing season last year with only two wins, only one of which was within the Patriot League. AU beat Loyola (Md.) 2-1 with two points from Kira Flaherty, team captain and MVP, who graduated in May.
Out of the 25 women on this year’s roster, 11 are freshmen or sophomores, making for what could be another rebuilding season. The team also has six returning seniors -- an increase in leadership from last season, when only three seniors were on the roster.
The Eagles began their season in early August, facing off against Georgetown and George Washington before notching a 3-0 win against Mount St. Mary’s on Aug. 16. They will kick off conference play against Boston University on Sept. 16 at home. This season, the women’s soccer team will play the Loyola Greyhounds on Reeves Field on Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. This game will be the women’s team’s seventh conference game and ninth game at home.
In an interview with The Eagle earlier this summer, head coach Todd West used one word to describe last year’s season: “forgettable.” The 2017 team roster had 12 freshmen and two seniors, which West said made their season “one for learning.”
“With the incoming class, the recruiting class and a few transfers coming in, I’m expecting the team to be very good this year,” West said. This season’s team will include international students from Italy, Sweden, Wales and Spain.
The men’s soccer team beat three PL teams last season: Lafayette (2-1), Holy Cross (2-1) and Navy (3-2). Six out of these seven goals were scored by then-freshman forward Nicholas Dimitrijevic, who will be returning for his second season with the team.
After kicking off their season against Essex County College on Aug. 15, AU will start conference play against Boston on Sept. 22. Some matchups to watch out for: AU will battle the Lafayette Leopards at home on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. and the Holy Cross Crusaders at home on Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. AU’s win over Holy Cross last season came six minutes into overtime, while AU’s winning goal against Lafayette came midway through the game’s second half.