The Stetson women’s basketball team will make its first-ever appearance in the Preseason WNIT Friday as the Hatters visit 11th-ranked Oklahoma to open the 2013-14 season. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET at the Lloyd Noble Center.
"We are playing against a tough opponent, but we are also playing in a tough atmosphere," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "They get great crowds and it's their first game, but it's also going to be fun for us. It's a great way to open up our season. I think to be part of such an elite tournament is great for us and our program. They are a good team, they are a veteran team, so they will exploit anything we don't execute."
After five long weeks of practice, the Hatters are anxious to get the season started.
"We are very excited to get going," junior Cherisse Burris said. "Everybody gets tired of just practicing against each other. Oklahoma will be good challenge for us to see where we are. We just need to stick together, execute on offense, execute on defense. They are a really good transition team and they are pretty big, too."
Burris is just one of five letterwinners returning from last year's team that went 24-9 and won the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship. With 53% of the team's scoring gone from a year ago, Bria will look for her junior and senior class to carry a hefty portion of the workload.
"All our upperclassmen have started to play at very high level, which helps a ton," Bria said. "We have a couple of freshmen who are coming along very well. We need them to get it and to get better every day. I am pleased with where we are so far."
With six freshmen on the Hatters roster, several rookies may be getting their first taste of Division I basketball come Friday night.
"It is pretty exciting, especially playing against a team like Oklahoma," freshman Keara Finnerty said. "We know that they have a really good offense and defense. We just have to go out there and play to the best of our ability. It's definitely going to be a thrill and a great experience."
Friday will mark the first-ever meeting between Stetson and Oklahoma. Both teams competed at the Columbus Regional in last year’s NCAA Tournament and would have met if Stetson had defeated UCLA in the first round.
Oklahoma went on to play in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, and the Sooners enter the 2013-14 season ranked in the top 15 nationally in both the Associated Press (11) and Coaches Poll (14).
"We know we have to play well, and we know we have to play tough," Bria said. "It's going to be great test for us. We are playing one the best teams in the nation and I think that's going to be good for us in the long run."
Fans can watch the game online via subscription at SoonerSports.TV. In-game updates are also available via live stats, the Stetson women's basketball twitter feed, or by the Hat-Alerts text messaging service.