Softball Announces Challenging 2014 Spring Slate
Dec. 13, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Fresh off one of the best seasons in school history that saw the University of Kentucky softball team earn a school-record 41 wins in the spring of 2013, seventh-year head coach Rachel Lawson and Co. turn the page to a new year with the announcement of a challenging 2014 spring schedule, the head coach announced Wednesday.
Kentucky will play a 32-game non-conference slate against some of the best teams in the nation on top of the always challenging 24-game Southeastern Conference schedule. All told, UK will play 26 games against teams that finished the 2013 season with a top-50 RPI. The 26 games will be played against 12 teams in the RPI top 50, including No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Texas, No. 4 Tennessee and No. 5 Michigan.
Lawson and Co. will play 21 games against teams that ended the 2013 spring season either ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 or ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25, including a single game against 2013 Women's College World Series Champion Oklahoma and a three-game set at John Cropp Stadium against the WCWS runner-up Tennessee. Other 2013 ranked teams UK will face this spring are No. 3/3 Texas, No. 6/6 Michigan, No. 11/11 Missouri, No. 13/13 Texas A&M, No. 19/23 Louisville and No. 22/rv Georgia, as well as Arkansas and Western Kentucky, who are both receiving votes in both polls.
Kentucky finished the 2013 season ranked No. 12/14 in the final rankings after defeating some of the best teams in the nation. In all, UK played 34 of its 62 games against teams that finished the season ranked or receiving votes in either poll with 17 wins in those games. UK had nine wins during the season against teams ranked at the time UK defeated them, including five top-10 teams. During the Lawson tenure, UK has defeated 40 top-25 teams, including 24 top-10 teams. Several of the national powers UK will face this season it has already downed under Lawson, including Tennessee Michigan, Missouri and Georgia.
"Last year, we made our schedule very challenging for our young team because we wanted them to see the high level you have to play at to be successful at this level and they responded to that," Lawson said. "This schedule is just as challenging and we expect them to approach it with the same amount of intensity if not more. On top of the challenges this schedule presents, we are all very excited about hosting two tournaments at John Cropp Stadium, which is one of the best venues in college softball. The team has worked hard this fall and we look forward to continuing that work over the next two months to make sure we are ready to go in early February."
The Wildcats' 2014 season begins at the Mizuno Invitational in Southern California on Feb. 6. Kentucky will play five games in the three-day tournament, squaring off against Santa Clara, Long Beach State and George Washington in Long Beach, Calif., and Loyola Marymount and Oklahoma in Fullerton, Calif. This is the second consecutive year UK will open its season out west after starting in Tempe, Ariz., last season.
The Mizuno Invitational is the first of three road tournaments to start the season for Kentucky, which will head to Austin, Texas, for the Texas Tournament from Feb. 14-16 playing in a three-day, four-team tournament with Texas, Louisiana Tech and IPFW. The Wildcats will play each team once before the field gets seeded for two additional games for each team.
The Wildcats will end its 15-game preseason road trip with its third trip in five years to Boca Raton, Fla., for the FAU Invitational from Feb. 21-23. While at the event, UK will play five games against quality opponents, squaring off against Penn State, Florida Atlanta, Kent State, Michigan and Penn State.
Following the FAU Invitational, UK will host its first of two non-conference tournaments from Feb. 28-March 2, hosting Eastern Kentucky, Butler and Pittsburgh for a four-team, round-robin event with a seeded conclusion. The tournament will serve as UK's home opener when the Wildcats host in-state foe Eastern Kentucky on Feb. 28 at 3 p.m. ET. All tournament games will be played at John Cropp Stadium.
The tournament will conclude UK's early non-conference schedule as SEC play begins the following weekend with UK traveling to Starkville, Miss., for a three-game set with Mississippi State on March 7-9. UK's conference schedule includes some of the nation's best teams from last season. UK will host Auburn (March 28-30), Texas A&M (April 4-6), Arkansas (April 18-20) and WCWS runner-up Tennessee (April 25-27) at John Cropp Stadium in league play, while traveling to Mississippi State, Missouri (March 14-16), Ole Miss (April 11-13) and Georgia (May 2-4).
UK's off weekend in conference play is March 21-23, when the Wildcats host their second tournament of the season, welcoming Kent State, Saint Francis, Fairfield and Kansas to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Wildcats will play six games over the three-day event squaring off against Kent State and Saint Francis on March 21, Fairfield and Kansas on March 22 and Kent State and Kansas on March 23.
The tournament will all but wrap up non-conference play for the Wildcats, who will only play seven non-conference games once conference play begins, not including the second home tournament. Kentucky will make day trips to Marshal on March 11 for a single game and Indiana on March 18 for a one-game set.
The Wildcats will continue its home-and-home series with in-state foe Louisville in 2014 with the Cardinals coming to Lexington on April 2 and UK making a return trip to Louisville on April 30. UK will also host Wright State on April 8 and Mississippi Valley State on April 9 before traveling to Western Kentucky University for a single game on April 22.
The 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament will be held in Columbia, S.C., from May 7-10, with NCAA Regionals starting May 15 at various locations around the country. NCAA Super Regionals will be May 23-25 with the 2014 WCWS running from May 20 to June 4 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla.
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