NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb softball coach Kristin Ryman doesn’t like to make things easy for her team when it comes to scheduling and 2017 is no different.
Five teams on the schedule - Florida State, Valparaiso, USC Upstate, Alabama and Louisville – played in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Alabama finished the season ranked No. 6 in the country.
“We try to schedule tough every year and certainly the personnel you have on your team from year to other has a lot of do with that,” Ryman said. “There are big names on the schedule, but there is also a balance. It is about finding ways to win games we should win and compete against the top teams.
“We feel like we have the talent this year to really challenge a lot of teams and pick up some wins. Regardless of the outcome of the games on this schedule we know we can compete and put ourselves in a position to win. We also know playing better nonconference teams makes you better in the ASUN.”
Five tournaments dominate the early part of the schedule, including Lipscomb’s Purple and Gold Challenge set for March 3-5 at Draper Diamond. Lipscomb will be hosting Eastern Illinois, Valparaiso and Stony Brook.
“This team is very motivated,” Ryman said. “We have a lot of new faces who bring with them an even greater work ethic.
“I am excited. We want to take steps forward. We don’t want to stay in the realm of we are a good mid-major team that competes for a conference title. We want to be a team that every single year is finding a way to get to regionals. I think we are on that path.”
The season begins Feb. 10-12 with the Unconquered Invitational hosted by Florida State, a College World Series team last season, in Tallahassee. In addition to the host team the Lady Bisons will play Marshall and Furman.
On Feb. 17-19 Lipscomb travels to Charleston, South Carolina for the Cougar Classic featuring host Charleston, Monmouth, Illinois-Chicago, Eastern Kentucky and Winthrop.
The Lady Bisons close out the month at the Troy Tournament in Troy, Alabama Feb. 24-26. Lipscomb will face the host team and will also play Pittsburgh and Southeastern Louisiana. The Lady Bisons will play Pittsburgh twice.
Lipscomb plays the first home game of the season March 1 when Wright State visits Draper Diamond for a 3 p.m. game as a prelude to the Purple and Gold Challenge.
“This program has come so far in the last 12 years,’ Ryman said. “The thing we are challenging this team with is to expect more.
“These girls want to keep getting better. We can’t say we want to win a championship if we are not going to prepare to win a championship.”
The final tournament of the regular season sends Lipscomb west to the University of Memphis Tournament. Also in the field are Western Illinois, Indiana, Buffalo and Oakland.
Road games the remainder of the nonconference season are March 15 at UAB, April 5 at Alabama in a game to be played in Florence, Louisville on April 18 and Belmont April 25.
Home non-conference games are slated against Campbell March 8, a three-game series with Austin Peay March 18-19, a doubleheader against Western Kentucky March 22, Samford on April 11 and Chattanooga April 20.
Lipscomb opens the ASUN Conference on the road with USC Upstate March 25-26. The Lady Bisons face Jacksonville on the road April 1-2 and close out the regular season May 4-5 at Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers.
“The ASUN is always tough,” Ryman said. “Our pitching staff is pretty much unknown to every team in the conference and there is an advantage there.
“But I think we are a little bit of an underdog this year. There is still a lot to prove and I think this team is going to play with a chip on its shoulder.”
The first home ASUN series is April 8-9 against Stetson. Also visiting Draper Diamond for ASUN series are North Florida April 14-15 and Kennesaw State April 29-30.
The ASUN Conference Tournament will be hosted by Lipscomb May 10-13.
“We have some challenges ahead in this schedule and that is the way we want it, “Ryman said. “I think this team is poised and ready to handle it. With our numbers being a little bit lower this year we are going to have to stay healthy and our girls know that.
“I want us to go all out. Practices have been more competitive. We want them to work in practice every day like there is something on the line. It is going to take every single person to get the job done this year.”