COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech women's basketball team enters the 2011-12 season after completing one of the most successful seasons in the program's history a year ago.
Even though Tech won its 16th Ohio Valley Conference Championship last season, the Golden Eagles will be anything but complacent as their 2011-12 schedule clearly shows.
Head coach Sytia Messer announced her squad's schedule Friday, a slate that includes at least 14 home games, 16 OVC matchups and a minimum of three games in the WNIT Preseason Tournament.
"My staff and I feel that we have put together a great competitive schedule," Messer said. "This schedule should help us accomplish our main goal for the season, which is to make the NCAA Tournament."
The Golden Eagles host an exhibition contest against Bryan College (Nov. 7), before opening the regular season at East Tennessee (Nov. 11) in the first round of the WNIT Preseason Tournament.
TTU will be guaranteed at least two more games in the WNIT Preseason Tournament, with the potential to serve as a host site. There are several opponents Tech could face including UCLA, Notre Dame and Baylor.
"We feel fortunate to be invited to the WNIT Preseason Tournament," Messer said. "The fact that we are in the same tournament with several teams that were in the Top-25 a year ago is unbelievable and a testament to how hard our players have worked. We will be challenged right away with ETSU."
After wrapping up the WNIT Preseason Tournament, the Golden Eagles will open their home schedule with a non-conference game against Tennessee Wesleyan (Nov. 21), whom the Golden Eagles defeated 75-42 a year ago.
The 2011-12 season will also see the Golden Eagles continue and start back up some old rivalries, as it heads to Middle Tennessee (Nov. 23) and resumes an old rivalry with former OVC foe Western Kentucky.
The Golden Eagles and Blue Raiders have met at least once every season since 1970, with TTU owning the series edge at 50-37.
"MTSU is a great team, with a lot of experience coming back this season," Messer said. "When we travel there we will have to bring our "A" game. They only lost one game at home last season to Xavier, so they defend their home court well."
Tech will also square off with another former OVC rival in Western Kentucky in a home-and-home series. The Golden Eagles will play host for the opening contest set for Dec. 7, with the Lady Toppers serving as host for the Jan. 17 meeting. TTU owns the series edge at 18-17.
"This will be a great year to restart our rivalry with Western Kentucky," Messer said. "We'll face them twice and really look forward to facing them at home on Dec. 7."
Along with Tennessee Wesleyan and Western Kentucky, the Golden Eagles welcome three additional non-conference opponents into Eblen Center this upcoming season, including Western Carolina, Lipscomb and Marshall. TTU is a combined 7-0 against Lipscomb and Marshall and will face Western Carolina for the first time.
In addition to its non-conference road game against MTSU, the Golden Eagles will venture forth with four more non-conference opponents on the road at Alabama A&M, Samford, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana Monroe.
Tech's meeting with Samford will be the first meeting between the two since Samford was a member of the OVC back in the 2007-08 season.
TTU then heads to the "Sportsman's Paradise" as it takes on a pair of opponents in Louisiana Monroe and Louisiana Tech before heading into Christmas break. This will be the first meeting between the Golden Eagles and the ULM Warhawks.
The meeting between La-Tech and TTU will feature two of the winningest programs in NCAA history. Between the two, the Golden Eagles and the Techsters have combined for 1,837 wins.
"It's a thrill to play a team like Louisiana Tech that has such a rich history and tradition," Messer said. "Playing against them will help us learn how to win on the road."
Unlike in previous seasons, Tech will take part in 16 OVC contests, opposed to 18 last season, split down the middle with eight conference games at home and eight on the road.
"This season, the other teams will be gunning for us," Messer said. "Our players have worked hard to become one of the top teams in the OVC, and they realize they'll have to keep it up to stay there."
TTU will face Murray State, Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, SIU Edwardsville and Tennessee State twice, while facing UT Martin, Southeast Missouri, Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay once.
"I definitely think the OVC is wide open this year," Messer said. "EIU returns all of their starters along with us and UT Martin brings back most of theirs, but any team in the OVC has a shot to win it this year."
To kick off the OVC portion of their schedule, the Golden Eagles and UT Martin will meet at Martin, Tenn., in a rematch of the 2011 OVC Tournament Championship game.
TTU will then travel to SIU Edwardsville for the first of two games Jan. 2, with the Golden Eagles hosting the second game later in the year.
Tech welcomes in Morehead State (Jan. 7) and Tennessee State (Jan. 9) to open its conference home schedule, and will meet both teams on the road on Jan. 30 and Feb. 11, respectively. Tech went a combined 3-1 against the Eagles and Tigers last season, with MSU and TTU each winning their home games in decisive fashion.
The month of January will also see the Golden Eagles take on Murray State (Jan. 14), and Eastern Kentucky (Jan. 28) on the road, and Southeast Missouri (Jan. 21) and Jacksonville State (Jan. 23) in Eblen Center.
Tech wraps up the regular season with seven conference games in the month of February. TTU will travel to Austin Peay (Feb. 6) and Jacksonville State (Feb. 4). The Golden Eagles will then close out their regular season with three straight games at home against Eastern Illinois (Feb. 13), Eastern Kentucky (Feb. 18) and Murray State (Feb. 25).
Season tickets for the 2011-12 Golden Eagle basketball season are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center, or by calling (931) 372-3940. Tickets may also be ordered online at TTUsports.com.