COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech softball team released its 2013 schedule this week, a slate which includes 15 home games at Tech softball field. The Golden Eagles take on 35 different teams, highlighted by a single game against Tennessee, an NCAA tournament team last season.
"We always try to challenge our team with playing some teams that you know are going to traditionally be very strong," head coach Tory Acheson said. "I think you typically rise to the level of competition that you play. We don't schedule our non-conference games worrying about where the wins are going to be as much as making sure that we're trying to put together a challenging schedule."
Tech opens the 2013 tournament schedule with four games at Georgia Southern University, Feb. 9-10, in Statesboro, Ga. The Golden Eagles face St. John's before taking on the host GSU Eagles. Tech will also be facing Akron in two games.
"We're excited to go back down to Georgia Southern," Acheson said. "We've played there several times in the past and it will be a good competitive field and a place that we're looking forward to kicking off the season with some good, solid softball to get things rolling."
The Golden Eagles will be back in action the following weekend at the Kennesaw State Tournament, Feb. 16-17. The tournament will feature games against Liberty, Mercer, Ball State and Kennesaw State.
Tech stays close to home again at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Golden Eagles will face five different teams across three days, Feb. 22-24. Tech takes on Northern Kentucky and Niagara on Friday, Miami and Missouri State Saturday before playing North Carolina Central Sunday in a jam-packed weekend.
"Kennesaw and Frost are traditional tournaments for us," Acheson said. "We try to stay close to home when we can. It's always nice to be somewhere where our players have a fan base and feel support."
The Purple and Gold Challenge will then debut at Lipscomb in Nashville, March 2-3. The Bison will host the challenge this year, while Tech's Purple and Gold will host the tournament in 2014. This year's field includes IPFW, Texas-El Paso and Lipscomb.
"The 'Challenge' is a new thing that we've entered into this year with Lipscomb," Acheson noted. "We're going to alternate from year to year. It will be in Nashville this year, then back to here in Cookeville the next year. So were hoping to make it a traditional event. It's nice for both schools to have the ability to pencil that in on their calendar every year."
During Spring break, Tech will travel south to Clearwater, Fla., to play in the University of South Florida Tournament, March 8-10. The Golden Eagles will open the tournament with two matchups against Maine and Fordham on Friday, then play Long Island and Wagner Saturday before finishing the weekend with a Sunday morning game against Providence.
The Golden Eagles will then work their way back to Cookeville, playing Florida A&M on March 10, and Thomas University on March 13.
The team's conference slate opens March 16-17 at Morehead State before Tech's home opener against Murray State, March 23. With the addition of Belmont, the conference schedule has been altered to more of a weekend-based setup.
"I'm excited about the new schedule because I think that it is much more player-friendly," said Acheson. "The old OVC schedule had us playing four different mid-week conference games. To me, it was just very, very challenging. I'm looking forward to seeing how that will impact us."
Tech alternates home and away weekends for the rest of the season with a single game match at Tennessee April 10, breaking up the conference schedule.
"UT is always a good news, bad news situation," said Acheson. "We love the challenge of playing them. I was very proud of how our kids played them in the fall season, but how that corelates to how we play them on the road in the spring is yet to be determined. I was pleased to see that we were not intimidated and we didn't back down at all."
For the first time, Tech will face Belmont as an OVC opponent. Those games are at home, April 13-14, before the Golden Eagles take on UT-Chattanooga for another mid-week, single non-conference game match-up, April 17. Conference play rounds out the last two weeks in April as the Golden Eagles take on a seven-game road trip through Illinois and finishing in Nashville. The team closes regular season play at home, May 4-5, against Jacksonville State.
Tech returns 12 letterwinners from the 2012 squad that went 27-32 and advanced all the way to a second OVC Tournament Championship game before being eliminated.