EUREKA — On Saturday at 1:30 p.m., the 2019 Eureka College men's soccer team will put its first mark on a clean slate.
The Red Devils are opening the season in a non-conference match against Emmaus on their home turf of McKinzie Field. The maroon and gold is seeking its second straight season-opening win after besting Lakeland 2-0 at home last year.
Eureka enters the season with a solid mix of veterans and newcomers. Of the team's 21 players on the roster, 11 are returners and eight have starting experience.
Saturday is the newbies' first chance to show what they can offer. Sixth-year coach Dwain Barker has been encouraged by what he's seen during the warm, long days of preseason.
"We have a lot of young players coming in to go with the returning players," EC's winningest coach in program history said. "We have a set of good, eager individuals, so I'm feeling positive."
After a 7-10 2018 campaign, the Red Devils were selected to finish ninth in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in a preseason poll conducted by league coaches. Though they're far from it now, they believe they can be a surprise contender this fall.
On the other side, second-year Emmaus coach Dan Block is looking to build off a debut season that featured both regular-season and tournament championships in the Midwest Christian College Conference. On Tuesday, the Eagles dropped their season opener in a 2-0 loss to Moody Bible Institute.
Last season, the Red Devils split with Emmaus, falling at Traister Field on Sept. 15 and getting a 1-0 edge on the road on Sept. 26.
EC has expectations to come in focused and prepared to go 2-0 against the Eagles this time around.
"They brought in a good class last year to compete and kind of caught us on our back foot in the first game," Barker said. "We adjusted for the second game. They have a strong returning squad. I believe that my players will be able to adapt."
Saturday's match isn't just the men's soccer team's first match of the season; it's EC's first athletic competition of the 2019-20 school year.
The show is about to start.