DOVER, Del. - With a new coaching staff in place and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year returning, the Delaware State University women's basketball team has high expectations for a successful 2012-13 campaign. The Hornets have their work cut out for them as their difficult schedule includes three conference champions and five NCAA tournament teams, the team announced early Wednesday afternoon.
"We are facing a competitive and difficult schedule this upcoming season," stated DSU head coach Tamika Louis. "Our schedule features some tough teams and we will be on the road a lot. It will be a test for us, but I think this schedule will definitely get us ready for MEAC play and the MEAC Tournament."
The Hornets will open their season Saturday, Nov. 10 at Elite 8 participant Kentucky at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. The Wildcats are coming off of another successful season under the helm of SEC Coach of the Year Matthew Mitchell, where the team finished first in the SEC with a 28-7 overall record. UK was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they eventually fell to No. 1 UConn, 80-65, in the Elite 8. The Wildcats return SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies and Freshman of the Year Bria Goss for the 2012-13 season.
"Kentucky plays an aggressive style of play that will help prepare us for MEAC teams like Florida A&M and Norfolk State," Louis commented. "They feature a full court trap and amoeba style defense that will pressure us, so we'll really get to work on our press breaker. This will be a good test for us, but we'll have a game plan that we will stick to. When playing a high caliber team like Kentucky, you want to make sure that your team is mentally strong and confident regardless of what is happening during the course of the game, and just as important, afterwards."
The Hornets will then travel to New York City to take on St. Francis (Nov. 16) and Fordham (Nov. 18), two teams Delaware State defeated during the 2011-12 slate.
"The New York trip will present us with two competitive games," remarked Louis. "Both teams have a similar style of play and they're both very disciplined."
DSU kicks off the home portion of their schedule as they host in-state opponent Wilmington Nov. 21 before opening Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play against UMES and Howard. The Hornets host the Hawks Dec. 1 and the Bison Dec. 3.
"UMES and Howard will be challenging games for us, but I'm happy to see them early in the year," Louis said. "It's nice to have them early and at home so we can get the fan support."
The first-year coach continued, "Howard will be one of the best teams in the league this year with everybody returning. With their experience and style of play, they will be competitive and at the top of the standings. This will be a good test for us early in the season."
DSU hits the road Dec. 8 to face off against the Great West Conference's NJIT before returning home Dec. 15 to take on reigning America East Champion Albany. The Great Danes, coming off of their first NCAA Tournament appearance, are lead by third year head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson.
When asked about Albany, Louis stated, "They are coming off of a great year and Coach Abrahamson-Henderson runs a disciplined and aggressive style of play. She is a tremendous coach and will definitely have them ready."
The next month will have the Hornets on the road and features six games throughout the nation.
On Dec. 18, Delaware State travels to South Dakota State University, a school Louis sees as one of the premier mid-major teams in the country. The Jacks finished 2011-12 with a 13-1 home record and are also coming off of a NCAA Tournament appearance after being crowned Summit League Champions.
"SDSU has had success in the past and they receive major fan support at home," Louis remarked. "Their fans will be loud and this will definitely be one of our toughest opponents this season."
The Hornets return to the east coast to take on Towson University Dec. 21 before taking a few days off for the holidays.
A trip to South Beach will wrap up the 2012 calendar year for Del State as they travel to the University of Miami Holiday Tournament Dec. 28-29. DSU opens the tournament with the Big Ten's Wisconsin, a team who struggled last season under first year head coach Bobbie Kelsey.
Louis commented, "Wisconsin has been undergoing a team overhaul. Coach Kelsey comes from Stanford and brought the triangle offense to the Badgers. It took them awhile to adjust to it last year, but towards the end of the season they beat some good Big Ten teams. I expect them to be really good and this game will be a test for us to stay disciplined against the triangle offense."
Following the Wisconsin game, the Hornets will face either Miami or Central Connecticut State.
The Hurricanes feature a fast and athletic squad that was ranked as high as five in the country last season. Miami was a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and made it to the second round.
DSU stays in the south for two games in Texas Jan. 5-6. The Hornets will travel to Houston Baptist on Saturday before taking on Houston Sunday. Both teams are on the rebound from disappointing 2011-12 seasons that featured a 1-27 record for HBU while the Cougars were 3-26 on the year.
Louis sees the two games on back-to-back days at the Miami Tournament and also in Houston as a chance to get ready for the MEAC Tournament.
"The travel and lack of downtime will be really tough, but we need these quick turnarounds so our ladies can see what kind of rest and focus they need before the MEAC," said Louis. "The good thing about these two long trips is that during this period of time, class is not in session. With this, we'll be able to travel early and adjust to different time zones."
DSU returns home to host in-city rival, Wesley, Jan. 14 to wrap up non-conference play.
The Hornets resume MEAC competition with three games on the road at UMES (Jan. 19), Bethune-Cookman (Jan. 26) and Florida A&M (Jan. 28).
DSU begins the month of February with two home contests against North Carolina Central (Feb. 2) and North Carolina A&T (Feb. 4) before traveling to Virginia for Norfolk State (Feb. 9) and reigning MEAC Champion Hampton (Feb. 11).
A season-high four-game home stand will begin for the Hornets Feb. 16 as they host Coppin State. Del State will close out the month with Morgan State (Feb. 18), Norfolk State (Feb. 23) and Hampton (Feb. 25) at Memorial Hall.
Three road games will wrap up DSU's regular season at Howard (March 2), Morgan State (March 4) and South Carolina State (March 7).
The Hornets will vie for their second MEAC Tournament Championship from March 11-16 in Norfolk, Va.