If the Hatters feel a bit warm over the next two days, it might be because they're being thrown into the fire.
That's how Stetson women's basketball head coach Lynn Bria describes her team's opening weekend schedule that features two games in two days in two different cities against two quality opponents.
"We'll get to see right where we are," Bria said. "I felt last year the early schedule did not show us where we were, and that wasn't going to happen this year. It will be good for us to play two quality teams under some pretty tough conditions."
The season tips-off at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon against Hofstra at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach. The Pride went 19-12 last season en route to a WNIT postseason berth. They are led by Shante Evans, a senior forward who averaged a double-double (19.2 points, 10.5 rebounds) as a junior. The game is part of the WBI Tip-Off Classic.
The Hatters will then head immediately to Tampa where they will face USF at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Bulls were 19-16 last season and advanced all the way to the third round of the WNIT. USF will also be playing its first contest in the newly renovated Sun Dome, which is now a 10,000-seat arena on the USF campus.
"I like doing this because it's right at the start of the season," Bria said. "I wouldn't do it at any other time from the fact that it's hard to scout right now, so every team is playing under the same conditions. You have to think on your feet and make adjustments during the game. It is going to be a challenge, but in the long run it's going to be good for us."
After six weeks of team practice the Hatters are thrilled to finally get the season started.
"I am so excited," senior Ashley Dennis said. "It's kind of bittersweet because (for the seniors) it's our last year together, but it's also a huge opportunity for us to do a lot of great things and leave our legacy on the program. I think we have been practicing really hard, and I think we are ready to beat up on some other teams instead of ourselves. I definitely am very excited for this weekend and to get the season started."
The wait for the season to start has probably felt even longer for senior Ashley Buis, who will be seeing her first game action in two years. Buis sat out the one manditory season after transferring from the University of Oregon in 2011.
"I am really, really excited," Buis said. "I have been working on a lot things and I feel like my game has improved vastly compared to last year thanks to my teammates pushing me and help from the coaches. But I am really excited to get started."
Both Buis and Dennis believe the Hatters are prepared to handle the two-games-in-two-days schedule this weekend.
"You have to go into it with a positive outlook," Buis said. "Everyone here has been in tournaments before where you play games on back-to-back days, or AAU where you might play multiple games in one day. We just have to keep focused on the things we have been working on and we will be fine."
"I think we are prepared for it because we practice hard every single day," Dennis said. "There is no slacking. If we don't go hard in practice we are expected to pick it up. Plus I think since it's the first two games, we are just going to be extra-energetic, extra-hyped and ready to go."
The Hatters were 23-11 in 2011-12, advanced to the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship game and made their first-ever appearance in the WNIT.
Live audio for the Hofstra game will be available for free on HatterVision. Live video for the USF game will be available for HatterVision subscribers. Note the broadcast will be a shared video stream of the USF feed.
Live stats for both games will be available through GoHatters.com.
Twitter and Hat-Alerts
Fans can get in-game twitter updates of Stetson women's basketball games all season long by following @StetsonWBB from your twitter account, or by signing up for the new Hat-Alerts text messaging service.