DOVER, Del.- With a young roster and a relatively new coaching staff, the Delaware State University softball team has its challenges set out for the 2013 season.
With these new changes, interim head coach Janice Savage looks to test her squad with a difficult schedule as the Hornets will face five Top 100 RPI teams in addition to squads from 12 leagues and one conference champion in 2013.
"We will have a really tough schedule this spring," remarked Savage. "We're an extremely young team, so I'm interested to see how we will get in and get acclimated. There have been all kinds of changes and we had a decent fall, so this could be a really good schedule for us or we could be in for a long spring."
The Hornets open the 2013 campaign with 14 road/neutral contest games, beginning with the Norfolk State Invitational Feb. 23-24.
While in Norfolk, Delaware State will face the NEC's Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson in two games each.
DSU will continue with four games at the annual University of North Florida Osprey Invitational from March 1-3. UNF (Atlantic Sun), ranked 88th in the RPI, will host St. Bonaventure (Atlantic 10) and Princeton (Ivy League) in addition to the Hornets.
"We will have a lot of games in a little bit of time, but we're excited for these spring trips," Savage commented. "We will also host Princeton later in the year, so it'll be good to meet them early on."
Del State returns from Florida to travel to Princess Anne, Md., to take on Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival UMES for one game on March 6 before turning around to head south once again.
From March 8-10, the Hornets will see a slew of different conferences and talented teams as they take on Winthrop (Big South), Georgia (SEC), Harvard (Ivy), Western Illinois (Summit) and Kent State (MAC) in the Winthrop Invitational, held in Rock Hill, S.C.
"I think making the first long bus trip to Jacksonville and then turning back around to driving south to South Carolina will help prepare us for our MEAC tournament trip to Florida in May," stated Savage. "It's partly why we scheduled where we did, so that our team can get use to riding the bus for a long distance and then playing a lot of ball games."
Both Georgia (13th) and Harvard (95th) were highly ranked in the RPI last season and will feature various challenges for Delaware State. Harvard won its second consecutive Ivy League Championship in 2012 with a 35-15 record while the Bulldogs lost in the SEC semi-finals and were 45-17 overall.Del State will then return home to host 12 games at the Hornets' Next over the next three weeks.
DSU will open with a game against the MEAC South's North Carolina Central March 14 and doubleheader with St. Francis (Pa.) (NEC), followed by the Hornet Invitational March 15-17 with Mount St. Mary's (NEC) and St. Bonaventure.
The Route 1 Rivalry will continue March 20 with the CAA's Delaware before the Hornets host the annual Sean Savage Epilepsy Awareness Tournament, March 22-24. Delaware State will welcome the Ivy League's Brown and Princeton in addition to the Patriot League's Colgate and Lafayette to the Hornets' Nest for the weekend.
On March 26, DSU travels north to Philadelphia where they will play a doubleheader at Temple.The Hornets open MEAC play March 29-30 with a three-game set at Hampton before a non-conference doubleheader April 3 at Lafayette.Morgan State then comes to Dover for three more MEAC games April 6-7.
Delaware State then heads south once again April 10 to take on the ACC's Virginia, who finished 61st in the RPI with a 26-25 record in 2012.
The Hornets notched their first ever win against an ACC school in 2011 with a 5-3 victory over the Cavaliers.
That weekend features another MEAC matchup with Coppin State in a three-game series April 13-14 in Baltimore.
The Hornets continue to mix it up with non-conference play against St. Joseph's (Atlantic 10) in Philadelphia and Towson (CAA) in Baltimore April 16 and 17.
DSU then travels to Norfolk, Va. to take on the Lady Spartans in a three-game set April 20-21 before heading to College Park, Md. April 24 for a doubleheader against the ACC's Maryland Terrapins. The Terps finished 52nd in the 2012 RPI with an overall record of 34-22.
The Hornets will wrap up conference play and the regular season as they host Howard April 27-28 and UMES May 4-5.
The 2013 MEAC Tournament will once again be held in Ormond Beach, Fla.
In total, the 2013 campaign features 34 road/neutral and 20 home contests for the Hornets.