Fifteen home games plus a challenging non-conference schedule that features four opponents who played in last year's postseason highlight the 2012-13 Stetson University women's basketball schedule, which was released on Thursday.
The Hatters are coming off a school-record 23 wins in 2011-12 and a trip to the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), which marked Stetson's second consecutive postseason appearance. In 2010-11, the Hatters captured the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship and competed in the NCAA Tournament.
"It is the toughest schedule we have had since I have been here," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "But we have five seniors so we should have a hard schedule. We need to be prepared for our conference season and for postseason play."
The Hatters open the season with a bang, playing two games in two days in two different cities against opponents who likewise participated in the WNIT last season.
On Nov. 9, Stetson will face Hofstra University at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, part of the WBI Tip-Off Classic.
The very next day the Hatters will travel down Interstate 4 to Tampa to meet the University of South Florida, where the Bulls will be playing their first game at the newly renovated Sun Dome. USF was 19-16 last season and advanced to the third round of the WNIT.
Stetson will play its first game in front of the home crowd on Nov. 16 against Florida A&M. The Hatters are looking to build upon their highly successful 12-1 record at the Edmunds Center last season.
Coach Bria's squad will immediately return to the road for a Nov. 18 contest against ACC-foe Florida State. The Hatters and Seminoles will be meeting for the third time in the last four years.
"The first four games are really going to show us where we stand," Bria said. "Hofstra had a great year last year and they just signed a very strong class. Then turning right around and going to USF, playing the first game in their new building is going to be a tough challenge. Florida A&M's coach LeDawn Gibson has done an incredible job there, and then we play at Florida State. It's going to be a real challenging start for us."
On Nov. 20, Stetson will begin a three-game home stand against Volusia County rival Bethune-Cookman. The "Hats" and "Cats" will be meeting for the 14th time in the last 15 seasons.
After playing a thrilling double overtime game in Muncie, Ind., last season, Ball State and Stetson will square off again in DeLand on Nov. 25. Victoria McGowan recorded the first of her three triple doubles against the Cardinals last season.
The final game of the homestand will be Dec. 4 against Lynn University in Stetson's annual Volusia County Schoolchildren day, which tips-off at 11 a.m.
Up next, the Hatters will play a pair of Saturday road games at Charlotte (Dec. 8) and Florida Atlantic (Dec. 15). Both the 49ers and the Owls competed in the WNIT last season.
The 25th Annual Hatter Classic returns to the Edmunds Center on Dec. 18-19. Stetson will face Georgia Southern and UNC Ashville during the two-day event. Bethune-Cookman will also participate in the four-team field.
Following the holiday break Stetson embarks on its 18-game, double round-robin conference schedule. The A-Sun slate begins Dec. 31 at Mercer, followed by a Jan. 2 contest at Kennesaw State. Other road games include USC Upstate (Jan. 12), ETSU (Jan. 14), Florida Gulf Coast (Jan. 26), North Florida (Feb. 2), Jacksonville (Feb. 4), A-Sun newcomer Northern Kentucky (Feb. 16), and Lipscomb (Feb. 18).
The home portion of the A-Sun schedule features North Florida (Jan. 5), Jacksonville (Jan. 7), Lipscomb (Jan. 19), Northern Kentucky (Jan. 21), ETSU (Feb. 9), USC Upstate (Feb. 11), Florida Gulf Coast (Feb. 23), Kennesaw State (Feb. 28), and Mercer (Mar. 2).
The 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Basketball Championships will be held at Mercer's University Center in Macon, Ga. March 6-9. The top eight teams in the A-Sun will compete for the conference title and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Stetson returns all five starters and nine letterwinners from last year's record-setting team, including 2011-12 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Victoria McGowan (Inkster, Mich.). McGowan is joined in the senior class by Ashley Buis (Linden, Ind.), Ashley Dennis (Bexley, Ohio), Janelle Mills (Wesley Chapel, Fla.), and Shanasa Sanders (Jacksonville, Fla.).
Single-game and season tickets can be purchased by calling (386) 822-8110.