WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue women's soccer begins its new season at home this weekend for the 11th time in program history, welcoming Toledo and Eastern Illinois to campus for the debut of the newly-renovated Varsity Soccer Complex.
Admission is free for all students Friday as the Boilers host Toledo at 7 p.m. It will be the first of eight home night games on Purdue's 2012 schedule. Eastern Illinois visits West Lafayette for the first time since 2008 for Sunday's 1 p.m. match.
For students living on campus, a free shuttle bus to the Varsity Soccer Complex will be offered beginning at 5:45 p.m. Friday. It will pick up at Shreve Residence Hall and Ford Dining Court and return to those locations after the game. Purdue players will be signing autographs after Sunday's game.
Women's soccer is once again the first intercollegiate sport around the nation to begin its season, kicking off the 2012-13 school year. The Aug. 17 start date is the earliest on the calendar year that Purdue has ever opened. The Boilermakers are 6-3-1 while playing their season opener at home and 8-5-1 in openers in program history.
Purdue and Toledo square off in a season opener for the third year in a row, with this season's matchup serving as a pseudo rubber game. The Rockets defeated the Boilers in overtime, 1-0, in West Lafayette two years ago. Purdue returned the favor last season, winning 1-0 in Northwest Ohio on a second-half goal from Alex Hairston. The Rockets lost only one other home game all season on their way to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Toledo was once again selected as the preseason favorite in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference.
Eastern Illinois was the opponent for Purdue's first victory in program history, September 1998 in Milwaukee. When the Boilers qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time four years later, they drew EIU as their opening-round opponent. Purdue won in a shootout to advance to the second round of the South Bend sub-regional.
Renovations at the Varsity Soccer Complex over the last year were centered around the addition of team facilities on the east side of the field. New locker rooms, team rooms and a pressbox have enhanced the student-athlete experience. The playing surface remains in exquisite condition.
Developing and sustaining a significant home-field advantage often times leads to the long-term success of a program. During Purdue's impressive stretch of 10 consecutive seasons with 10-plus wins (2000-09), the Varsity Soccer Complex was always a tough place to win for opponents. But the last two seasons have seen the Boilers compile an 8-11-4 record at home. Not surprisingly, the team finished under .500 in both campaigns.
Wednesday, goalkeepers Clara Kridler and Yana Lyon stressed the team's goal of winning their home games. With 13 of its 20 regular-season games set to be played at the Varsity Soccer Complex, a successful run at home would certainly return the program to its winning ways.
Toledo represents the first of eight opponents on Purdue's schedule that qualified for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Six of those eight games will be played at home.