JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (July 31, 2008) - Coming off its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, head ETSU women's basketball coach Karen Kemp released what will be considered the toughest schedule to be played in Lady Buccaneer history this upcoming 2008-09 season.
The daunting schedule features seven teams who appeared in postseason play a year ago (four NCAAs, three WNIT); including three match-ups against perennial powerhouse SEC foes and a road trip to ACC country.
"This will be the toughest schedule any of my teams have faced in my 15 years here at ETSU," commented Kemp, who is looking to guide the Lady Bucs to a program-best fourth consecutive winning season.
Despite only playing two regular season home games in the 2008 portion of their schedule, the Lady Bucs made one of the contests an intriguing one as nationally ranked Vanderbilt visits Memorial Center for ETSU's home-opener on Friday, Nov. 21. Following the match-up with last season's 15th ranked team in the country, ETSU hosts former SoCon rival Appalachian State on Wednesday, Nov. 26.
Prior to the pair of home games the Lady Bucs begin the season on the road with a trip to Evansville (Nov. 15) and yet another old SoCon foe Chattanooga (Nov. 17). The Purple Aces are coming off a historic season as UE posted a 21-win campaign and earned its first-ever postseason win with a 60-58 victory over Southeast Missouri State in the WNIT. Two days later the Lady Bucs look to avenge last year's heartbreaking one-point loss to the Lady Mocs 70-69, and spoil UTC's home-opener. The Lady Mocs are coming off their third undefeated conference season in the last five years and are 82-11 at home since 2001.
The month of December will keep the Lady Bucs away from Johnson City the entire time as they hit the road for a season-long five-game road trip, beginning December 1 in Athens, Ga. The Lady Bulldogs made their 14th consecutive trip to the NCAAs a year ago and finished the year 24th in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. ETSU remains in the state of Georgia following its third-ever meeting with UGA as the Lady Bucs look to extend their winning streak against conference foes to nine games when they face Mercer in the Atlantic Sun opener on Dec. 5. After a week off for finals ETSU finishes play against SEC schools when they travel up I-75 on Dec. 12 and take on Kentucky. The Wildcats are coming off their fourth consecutive season of postseason play after reaching the WNIT quarterfinals in 2008. Another conference game will lead ETSU up to its Christmas break when the Lady Bucs take on Kennesaw State on Dec. 18. ETSU's road swing comes to an end in Winston-Salem, N.C. three days after Christmas when the Lady Bucs tangle with Wake Forest, marking the seventh meeting between the two programs.
"We are really excited to host Vanderbilt," said Kemp. "In order to be the best you have to play the best, which is why we are taking on the likes of Kentucky, Georgia and Wake Forest."
From there, ETSU returns home and focuses most of its attention to conference play - with the exception of at Liberty (Jan. 13) - who made its 11th appearance in the NCAA in the last 12 seasons a year ago.
The conference returns to its original format in 2008-09, meaning all teams play each other twice. ETSU's A-Sun home opener will be Jan. 3 when the Lady Bucs host conference rival Jacksonville. The Lady Bucs downed the Dolphins, 75-72, in the conference championship game and also snapped JU's 17-game winning streak last January. The same weekend UNF visits Memorial Center on Jan. 5 and following its road trip to Lynchburg, Va., ETSU comes home for a critical four-game conference homestand. Instate rivals Belmont (Jan. 15) and Lipscomb (Jan. 17) kick things off, while Campbell (Jan. 22) and USC Upstate (Jan. 26) close out the longest Lady Buccaneer home swing of the campaign.
Other notable conference road games include Jacksonville (Jan. 29), Florida Gulf Coast (Jan. 8) and a trip to the Music City. The Lady Bucs face Lipscomb on Friday, Feb. 13, and Belmont on Sunday, Feb. 15.
Once again the Atlantic Sun Conference champion will be crowned in Lipscomb's Allen Arena. The four-day tournament begins on March 4 and both the men's and women's championship game will be played on March 7.
"Our goal every year is to win the conference and go to the NCAA Tournament," added Kemp. "We were fortunate to win both the regular season and conference tournament a year ago, and now after having a taste of victory we want to get back to the Big Dance and advance."
For more news on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.