NASHVILLE – With the season approaching in three months, the Lipscomb softball team and head coach Kristin Ryman unveiled the 2019 schedule on Tuesday.
The Lady Bisons will play a challenging slate, featuring Power Five opponents, NCAA Tournament participants, a pair of new ASUN foes, a number of nonconference tournaments, and the 2018 NCAA national championship-winning Florida State Seminoles.
“I think that we’ve put together a very competitive, but also balanced schedule this year,” Ryman said. “I think we have a team very capable of handling this schedule. We’re going to be challenged in a lot of ways early on, but we want that.”
The early portion of the schedule will feature travel all over the south, with nonconference tournaments taking place in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and in Nashville.
The season will open at the Cowgirl Classic in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Lipscomb will take on Campbell on Feb. 8 in the first game of the season, followed by matchups with Samford and host McNeese State. They will also take on SEC foe Arkansas on Feb. 9.
After the Jaguar Challenge in Mobile, Alabama on Feb. 15-17, Lipscomb will head to Tallahassee, Florida for the Unconquered Invitational. There, the Lady Bisons will face 2018 NCAA and ACC champion Florida State, the tournament’s host.
“Anytime you can play the defending national champs is a really cool situation,” Ryman said. “They’re a really good team that’s put together a lot of really good years. It’s a program we have a lot of respect for. They’re well-coached, and they’re the defending national champions for a reason.”
Lipscomb last visited Tallahassee in 2017, where they won two of their five games at the Unconquered Invite which included a loss to the host Seminoles.
“We went down there a couple of years ago and thought it was really well run,” Ryman said. “It’s a fantastic facility. We’re looking forward to going back and having a chance to play them not once, but twice.”
Lipscomb will face seven other 2018 NCAA Tournament teams in 2019: Arkansas, Illinois-Chicago, Kennesaw State, Liberty, McNeese State, Texas, and Tulsa.
“I think it’s a very tough schedule,” Ryman said. “Not only do we have 15 games against NCAA Tournament teams from last year, but even beyond those there’s games against teams like Louisville and South Alabama who were just on the outside looking in.”
The Lady Bisons will host a pair of tournaments themselves: the Purple/Gold Challenge on March 1-3 and the Lady Bison Classic from March 15-17.
Appalachian State, Miami (OH), and Eastern Illinois will be visiting for the former, with Buffalo, Valparaiso, and Western Kentucky on the docket for the latter.
Following the Belmont Tournament across town in mid-March, the Big 12’s Texas will visit on March 18.
“It’s a big deal to host Texas,” Ryman said. “We’ve hosted Power Five schools before from some really great conferences, but one of the things that’s really unique about Texas is that they’re not really in our region. They’re not a team that we would typically have an opportunity to host.”
“Those opportunities sometimes are rare to host Power Five opponents that aren’t really in your region, and that you don’t play often. So for us, it’s a really cool opportunity to face a very storied program.”
The Lady Bisons will have a quick turnaround after the matchup with the Longhorns as they travel to take on another ACC foe in Virginia Tech on March 20.
“The ASUN conference finished fifth in RPI among conferences last year,” Ryman said. “A lot of people don’t realize that because we’re not a huge football conference. Year in year out softball, along with baseball, are typically the highest RPI sports in the ASUN.
“We all know that in order to keep it up there we can’t just beat each other up in conference play every year. We know we’ve got to schedule tough.”
ASUN play kicks off with a trip to new conference opponent Liberty on March 23 and 24.
“Liberty is new to the conference this year, but they’re a very good program that is returning most of their key players from last year,” Ryman said.
“We need to be ready to go right off the bat. There’s no warmup for conference play, and there’s no letdown as you go. Everyone is good from top to bottom.”
The Lady Bisons will return home for a nonconference date with Tennessee Tech on March 27 and a three-game series with ASUN foe North Florida on March 30 and 31.
The 2018 ASUN champions Kennesaw State will visit for a series on April 27 and 28, and new ASUN member North Alabama will head to Nashville on April 13 and 14.
The regular season will close with a series at FGCU on May 2 and 3, before the ASUN Tournament takes place starting on May 8.
“We feel like we’ve put together a very challenging schedule,” Ryan said. “But, we have a senior-heavy team; we’ve got talent all the way down, including a really good freshman class. The pieces are there.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
54 Total Games
24 at Draper Diamond
21 ASUN Games
16 True Road Games
16 Different Conferences
16 Games Against 2018 NCAA Tournament Participants
14 Neutral Site Games
11 of the top-100 teams in the final 2018 RPI rankings
8 of the top-50 teams in the final 2018 RPI rankings
6 Games against Power Five Opponents
6 Nonconference Tournaments