EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE softball has announced its 2018 schedule, which will feature four tournaments, a host of exciting nonconference matchups and a 22-game Ohio Valley Conference schedule.
SIUE Head Coach Sandy Montgomery and her team are coming off a successful fall season that included a perfect game victory. Montgomery said preparation will be the key to SIUE's success in 2018.
"There's never enough time to be on the field when you have a new team," said Montgomery. "I certainly like our team. They're energetic and are very hard-working."
The Cougars open up the season Feb. 9-11 in Troy, Alabama.
"It's going to be a good tournament," said Montgomery. "Troy is a good program that has been at the top of their league for some time. We also have Valparaiso and Alabama State twice on this trip. It will be a good challenge for us and a great way to start our season."
SIUE will have more than 10 days between games after the first weekend and will head to the Red Blue Classic in Oxford, Mississippi, Feb. 23-25. The Cougars have two games against Ole Miss and single contests against UMKC, North Dakota State and Stephen F. Austin.
"That definitely will be a challenge for a young team to play at Ole Miss," said Montgomery. "There's no easy task at the Red Blue Classic."
In March, the Cougars travel to Madeira Beach, Florida, for five games March 2-4 against Central Arkansas, Seton Hall, Villanova, Loyola and LaSalle.
"By the time we get to Florida, we hope that with a young pitching staff and a young team, we can start to click," said Montgomery.
On its way back from Florida, the Cougars will stop in for two regional contests at Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) March 6 and Western Kentucky of Conference USA March 7.
"I think it's important that we play SEC and Conference USA teams," said Montgomery. "They are in our region and help our RPI."
SIUE then travels to Memphis, Tennessee, for its fourth tournament of the season at the Tiger Classic March 16-18. The Cougars play South Dakota, host Memphis and twice against Eastern Michigan.
The March 21 home opener for the Cougars is a first for the SIUE softball program. Illinois, of the Big Ten Conference, will appear at Cougar Field for the first time in program history.
SIUE also has midweek home games against SIU Carbondale (April 3) and Saint Louis (April 17). The Cougars have scheduled road nonconference contests at Kansas (March 28) and Bradley (April 11).
The OVC schedule, which includes doubleheaders against all 11 fellow league members, begins March 24 with the Cougars on the road in Nashville, Tennessee. SIUE faces Tennessee State (March 24) and Belmont (March 25).
The OVC road schedule includes doubleheaders at UT Martin (March 30), Southeast Missouri (April 14), Austin Peay (April 28) and Murray State (April 29).
The home OVC schedule includes five dates with Eastern Kentucky (April 7), Morehead State (April 8), Jacksonville State (April 21), Tennessee Tech (April 22) and Eastern Illinois (May 4).
The OVC Championships, an eight-team double-elimination tournament, will once again be held at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Alabama. The tournament takes place May 9-13 with the winner heading to the NCAA Division I Softball Championships.
"The bottom line for us is that we have to win our conference championship," said Montgomery.