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Thursday, December 09, 2010Lipscomb Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman lost six senior players from the 2010 team that advanced to the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, but that hasn’t stopped her from preparing a challenging schedule for 2011.
The schedule includes teams from 13 different conferences.
The Lady Bisons, as usual, will open the season with a series of tournaments. The first one, hosted by the University of Georgia in Athens, will be held Feb. 11-13. All six teams in the tournament played in an NCAA regional last season. In addition to Lipscomb and Georgia the tournament field features East Carolina, Iowa, Illinois State and Maryland.
“Our opening tournament is going to be extremely tough,” Ryman said. “It will be a big time test to see where we are right off of the bat. Hopefully, we will walk out and be able to build some confidence by facing some of the toughest teams early on.
“We are going to be looking for our young pitchers to step up. There are always nerves associated with the first part of the year. If we can continue to get it across to all of our young players that they are good it will be a plus. We have a great deal of confidence in that group.”
On the opening day of the season the Lady Bisons will start with East Carolina and end with Iowa.
“East Carolina is one of the best teams in Conference USA,” Ryman said. “They made it to the finals of their regional as well. They will be an extremely good test right off of the bat.
“Iowa traditionally has good pitching. They have done well in the Big 12. They are always up there competing.”
The Lady Bisons return to Georgia Feb. 19-20 to play in the Georgia State Tournament in Atlanta. In addition to the Lady Bisons and host team the field will include Appalachian State and Memphis.
“We will play Appalachian State a couple of times,” Ryman said. “They are a team we have not played in softball before.
“We get to play Memphis, a team we haven’t played in several years. I think the last time we played was the freshman year of the class that just graduated.”
February is busy with the Lady Bisons ending the month at the UAB Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., from Feb. 25-27. Samford, Radford, Indiana State and St. Louis are also participating.
Fans of the Lady Bisons will get their first look at the team on its home turf at Draper Diamond for the second annual Lady Bison Classic March 4-6. Butler, Appalachian State, Samford and Eastern Illinois all will face the Lady Bisons.
“This year we have four teams,” Ryman said. “Last year we only had three.
“Those are four teams that will challenge us. But it should overall be a good tournament with good competition.”
The Lady Bisons will return to Birmingham March 8 to play UAB in a doubleheader. The Lady Bisons beat UAB last season in the NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
On March 10 the Lady Bisons are back at Draper Diamond to face Austin Peay in a doubleheader.
They return to the road March 16 for a doubleheader with Western Carolina.
The Lady Bisons will then play in their fifth tournament of the season when they travel to Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. Also in the field are Kansas, Georgia Tech and Providence.
“We will face Kansas again and we will play Georgia Tech twice,” Ryman said. “Our first tournament and our last tournament are going to be our biggest tests. That is nothing against the teams in the other tournaments. They are going to test us as well.”
The Lady Bisons will start off their defense of the A-Sun Conference Championship March 25 on the road at ETSU in Johnson City. They will follow that with a visit to USC-Upstate on March 26.
There are eight home games from March 29 to May 6. Western Kentucky visits Draper Diamond for a single game March 29. Campbell will be the first A-Sun opponent to visit on April 1.
The remaining A-Sun home doubleheaders are Jacksonville (April 8), North Florida (April 9), Kennesaw State (April 21), Mercer (April 22) and Belmont April 30.
“Every other year we trade home and away games,” Ryman said. “We have more home games in the A-Sun which will be nice. We are excited to be at home for most of April and for most of our conference schedule.”
Tennessee Tech from the Ohio Valley Conference will visit April 27 for a doubleheader.
The remaining conference road doubleheaders are at Florida Gulf Coast April 14 and at Stetson April 17.
Nonconference doubleheaders on the road will be played at Middle Tennessee (April 5) and Tennessee State, the regular season finale, May 6.
“We know there are going to be some games this year that we may lose that we probably shouldn’t lose,” Ryman said. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves with this group and start thinking about things like conference play. Every game is going to be a learning experience.
“I think a lot of people out there realize we lost some good players from last year, but we also have some great ones back. They know we have some good freshmen too. We are going to have a target on our backs whether it is a conference team or a non-conference team. We are not going to surprise teams anymore.”
The A-Sun Conference Tournament will be played for the first time at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S. C., May 11-14.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.