By nearly any measure, the anticipation for the start of a new Ashland University athletic year has never been higher.
That anticipation will reach a crescendo this week, as five Eagle teams begin their 2016 campaigns.
FOOTBALL – The Eagle football team, ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division II by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), will kick off 2016 on Thursday (Sept. 1) at 6 p.m. against non-conference opponent Mercyhurst at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. The season's lid-lifter will be the first of three straight home games for AU to begin the season – the first time Ashland has opened with three in a row at home since the Community Stadium days in 1973.
Thursday's game is Community Night at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. Prior to the game, a free-to-the-public Fan Fest will take place from 3-5 p.m. outside of the stadium.
WOMEN'S SOCCER – The Eagle women, who have doubled their win total in a three-year period (seven in 2012 to 14 in 2015), will look to take the next step at a national level to begin 2016. Ashland will travel to play two 2016 D-II playoff teams in Truman State on Thursday at 3 p.m. and Quincy on Saturday (Sept. 3) at noon. Both Truman and Quincy won a postseason game last fall.
AU never has played Truman, and is 2-0-1 all-time against Quincy.
MEN'S SOCCER – The Eagle men return to the pitch for the first time since Oct. 30, 2012, as first-year head coach Oliver Slawson leads AU in the season-opener on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Daemen.
Ashland's opener is the culmination of a process which began on Sept. 30, 2015, when the university announced the program's return, and accelerated on Dec. 1, 2015, when Slawson, a longtime University of Akron assistant coach, was hired as the Eagles' fifth head coach.
VOLLEYBALL – Ashland's volleyball team will play the first of two opening tournaments, the Angelina Miele Memorial Tournament in Lock Haven, Pa., beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. The Eagles will take on the host Bald Eagles on Thursday, play against Charleston, W.Va. (1 p.m.) and California, Pa. (5 p.m.) on Friday (Sept. 2) and against Shepherd on Saturday at 1 p.m.
AU is seeking its second straight 4-0 start to a season, the program's best since winning the first five matches 10 years ago.
CROSS COUNTRY – The first of four Ashland regular-season meets, the Rich Davis Flyer 5K Challenge in Kettering, Ohio, will take place on Saturday at 9:45 a.m.
The headlines heading into the meet will be the return of senior Nick Hall on the men's side, and the debuts of freshmen Kaylie Murray and Johannah Stefanek on the women's side.