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Spartans Set To Battle Georgia State In Season Opener

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Colin Francis and the Spartans look to take down the Panthers Tuesday afternoon.

Colin Francis and the Spartans look to take down the Panthers Tuesday afternoon.

Aug. 31, 2009

Upstate vs. Georgia State Game Notes

Spartanburg, S.C. USC Upstate opens the 2009 season Tuesday afternoon when Georgia State comes to Spartanburg and County University Soccer Stadium for a 4:00 p.m. kick-off. The game will be the first of the regular season for both schools after preseason workouts. Georgia State owns a 6-2-1 lead in the series that dates back to a 3-2 Panthers victory on Oct. 27, 1981. GSU has won both contests the last two seasons after Upstate made the move to Division I, winning 3-1 in County University Soccer Stadium in 2007 and 2-1 in Atlanta last year.

Fans not in attendance at the game can watch the action live online at ASun.TV (www.asun.tv) and clicking the USC Upstate tab. Subscription prices do apply. In addition, fans can receive updated game statistics using Gametracker via the official Upstate Athletics Web site, www.upstatespartans.com.

Looking Back At Clemson
Upstate played its final tune-up for the regular season last Wednesday in an exhibition game at Clemson. Clemson scored two goals in each half to take a 4-1 victory over the Spartans at Riggs Field. However, Nick Buxton provided a bright spot for Upstate with a goal with less than two minutes to play in the game to get the Spartans on the board.

Looking Back At 2008
Upstate closed out the 2008 season with a 3-0 loss at Clemson, capping a 2-15-1 season that saw the Spartans frustrated by close calls on the pitch. Upstate dropped seven games by two goals or less and four by a single goal. A lucky break here or there could have had a demonstrable affect on the overall and A-Sun records from a year ago. Upstate did take wins over NAIA powerhouse Brewton-Parker and A-Sun foe Mercer, while tying a tough Florida Gulf Coast squad in Fort Myers.

Upstate Sheds Provisional Status, Now Fully DI Eligible
While Upstate men's soccer is just in its third year of competing on the NCAA Division I level, it is now fully eligible for postseason A-Sun and NCAA tournament play in 2009. Upstate, upon declaring its intention to move to DI membership, tapped the men's soccer and softball teams as fast-track sports into NCAA Division I. After two seasons playing on the DI level, men's soccer and softball are now fully eligible members.

Spartans In Season Openers
Throughout the 29 years prior to the 2009 season, the Upstate men's soccer team has had a strong record in season-opening games. The Spartans are 22-7 in season openers all-time and 1-1 in the Division I era. Upstate claimed a 3-2 victory over Brewton-Parker in last year's opener. The Spartans have also been strong in openers under the guidance of head coach Greg Hooks, going 11-3 in 14 seasons.

Upstate traditionally plays well at home with a winning percentage of .804 on campus. The winning percentage goes up in home openers with Upstate going 24-4-1 all-time. The .845 winning percentage is 41 points higher than that of the overall home winning percentage at the school.

Newcomers Look To Make Impact
With 14 newcomers on the roster for 2009, head coach Greg Hooks fully expects several of the new players to make impacts on the team this season. In fact, several are slated to move into starting roles, while most others are expected to be key reserves.

Yildirim, King Shine In Scrimmage
In Upstate's first action of the year, the Spartans claimed a 4-1 victory over Spartanburg Methodist in a scrimmage on Aug. 20 at County University Soccer Stadium. Last year's forward combination of Erkan Yildirim and Hakeem King again provided the punch for the Spartans in the 3-session, 30-minute period scrimmage. Yildirim scored Upstate's first two goals before King added a score to make the score 3-1. Fellow returnee Timo Foerster scored on a free kick for the final margin.

Looking For A DI First
Heading into its third season playing on the Division I level, Upstate has yet to record a shutout as a DI member. The Spartans recorded a 2-2 tie against Florida Gulf Coast in the next to last game of the season to deliver the Spartans' first DI tie, but Upstate is still looking for the allusive shutout.

Spartans Strong At Home
Since moving into County University Soccer Stadium, the Upstate men's soccer program has been tough to beat. Actually, since the inception of the program in 1980, the Spartans have been stout on the Spartanburg campus. Upstate is an impressive 57-17-3 at the friendly confines of County University Soccer Stadium for a winning percentage of .760. Overall, Upstate is 225-50-13 at home for an .804 winning percentage in Spartanburg. Upstate played its first season in the quad behind the Administrative Building prior to moving to historic Rifle Field in 1981. The Spartans (then, the Rifles) tallied a 162-30-10 record for an .802 winning percentage at Rifle Field.

Hooks An Accomplished Field Leader
USC Upstate head coach Greg Hooks has had an accomplished 21-year coaching career. He has a career record of 276-102-24 with coaching stints at Spartanburg Methodist (1985), Lees-McRae (1986-87), University of Charleston (1991-94) and USC Upstate (1995-present). He started the programs at both Lees-McRae and University of Charleston, leading both programs to national rankings. He took over the Upstate program in 1995 and coached the team to an appearance in the NCAA Division II National Championship game and returned the team to the title game in 1998. He has led Upstate to 189 victories, five Peach Belt Conference regular season championships, six Peach Belt Conference Tournament titles, and five NCAA Tournament appearances. Hooks ended his reign in NCAA Division II as the division's second winningest coach all-time and currently ranks 20th all-time in the history of the NCAA, regardless of division standing.

Spartan Soccer - A Story Of Success
While the USC Upstate Athletics Department has had a storied history of success throughout its existence, the men's soccer program has achieved success on a more consistent level than any other program at the University. Upstate men's soccer finished third in the NAIA National Tournament three straight years from 1983-85 and made 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in 16 years in the NCAA Division II. The Spartans claimed seven regular season Peach Belt Conference championships, nine Peach Belt Conference Tournament titles, and advanced to the championship game of the league tournament 14 times in 16 years.

 
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