Sept. 18, 2013
CHICAGO - DePaul is embarking on its most challenging road stretch of the season with its next four matches away from the friendly confines of Wish Field.
The odyssey begins with a 7 p.m. showdown on Thursday against talented SMU (5-3) in Dallas. It continues three days later when the Blue Demons resume their North Side rivalry against Loyola with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Loyola Soccer Park.
DePaul (5-1-1) opens the BIG EAST Conference season on Sept. 26 at No. 10/10 Georgetown which has started the 2013 campaign with a seven-game winning streak. Three days later, the Blue Demons pay a visit to BIG EAST adversary Providence.
The Blue Demons entered the week ranked No. 10 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire Northeast Region poll.
"One of the biggest things is adapting to the change in your usual schedule and routine," DePaul coach Erin Chastain said about life on the road. "There could be flight delays at the airport. There are a lot of little things that could go wrong when you're travelling. Be sure and get the right amount of sleep.
"There are the preparations in the hotel with team meetings and the pre-game video. Since the coaching staff is with the team a lot more on the road, we can monitor their sleep a little better.
"SMU is a good team that draws a good crowd for home games. We have to make adjustments about playing on a natural-grass field. Fortunately, the size of SMU's field is similar to ours."
The Mustangs feature a potent offense that has outscored opponents 21-8 this season. Leading the way is forward Shelby Redman with six goals and two assists for 14 points. Defender Taylor Barg has two goals and five assists while backline mate Courtney Smith has one goal and seven assists. Midfielder Kelsey Gorney has four goals.
SMU has outshot teams 111-73 and holds a 59-31 advantage in shots on goal. The Mustangs have a commanding 45-22 edge in corner kicks and have outscored opponents 11-1 in the first half.
The Blue Demons have fared well on the road with victories over Saint Louis and Ohio and a 1-0 loss at Valparaiso. That has contributed to the program's best start since 2002.
"There is a lot of team bonding on the road," Chastain said. "It's a chance for all the players to get to know each other better. There's always a different roommate, and there's a lot of time spent together in the hotel and at team meals.
"You prepare the same way as at home and put yourself in a position to win games. It helps that we have a lot of experienced players (five seniors, seven juniors) who are used to going on the road and who have won big games on the road.
"We're looking to get the result against a really good SMU team."
The corollary to holding your own on the road is establishing home-field advantage, and DePaul is off to a 3-0-1 start at Wish Field.
"Our student-athletes came here to play at DePaul and represent the school well in front of family and friends," Chastain said. "Our program takes a tremendous amount of pride in playing at home and winning.
"Every game---but especially at home---it's so important to go out and take care of business. We want to take advantage of playing on our artificial-turf surface and the dimensions of Wish Field.
"So far, we've been able to do that as we get ready for the tough competition in the BIG EAST."