There aren’t many seasons when the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team can get a home game against a marquee Southeastern Conference opponent.
This, however, will be one of them.
Louisiana State will make a visit to the Dome on Jan. 24, one of 14 home games on the Lady Bucs’ schedule released Wednesday. The Lady Tigers are now coached by Nikki Caldwell, an Oak Ridge native who was part of national championship teams at Tennessee as a player and assistant coach.
“It’s rare when we can get an SEC team come to our place,” said ETSU coach Karen Kemp. “This has a lot to do with Nikki. She’s from Oak Ridge and this is an opportunity to bring her first LSU team up into the area.
“We’ll go down to their place next season. It’s a home-and-home deal.”
The ETSU schedule begins Nov. 11 with a visit by Tennessee Tech as part of the Preseason Women’s NIT. A victory would likely send the Lady Bucs out to California; they’re bracketed with UCLA in the 16-team field.
Middle Tennessee State, Chattanooga and Morehead State will also come to the Dome this season. Non-conference road games include North Carolina and Richmond.
Seven opponents made the postseason last year.
“I think the schedule will be challenging, as always,” said Kemp. “It’s maybe not quite as challenging as some we’ve had, but it’s plenty tough enough. For a fact, when you do well it’s harder to put these schedules together. People don’t usually want to come and play in the Dome.
“I think we’ve got a good home schedule this year.”
The Lady Bucs went 19-12 last season and saw their three-year reign as Atlantic Sun Conference champions end with a semifinal loss to Jacksonville. The tournament path may get more perilous this season with Florida Gulf Coast and South Carolina Upstate becoming eligible.
The Lady Bucs finished last season with star freshman Destiny Mitchell out with a knee injury. Point guard Tarita Gordon never got out of the gate, having redshirted after tearing an ACL last summer.
Both are back and in good shape, says Kemp.
“We look forward to getting started,” she said. “We’ll start officially Oct. 2, which is 40 days before the start of our season.”
n The volleyball team dropped just one game in capturing the championship of a tournament in Chattanooga last weekend.
The Lady Bucs shut out North Carolina-Asheville and Chattanooga before defeating Tennessee Tech 3-1 in the title match. They improved their season record to 6-5.
“It was a great tournament for our entire team,” said coach Lindsey Devine. “Everything seemed to be flowing our way.”
The Lady Bucs hope to go with the flow to Harrisonburg, Va., this weekend for a tournament at James Madison. Appalachian State and Georgetown are also involved.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to get out there and see how much we’ve improved overall,” said Devine. “We’ll definitely be challenged.”
The Lady Bucs open conference play at home next Tuesday night against South Carolina Upstate.
Devine’s team went 26-9 last season, and she likes the attitude the players brought back to the court this summer.
“I see a relentlessness in regard to our defense,” she said. “We’ve made great strides in trying to be more of a scrappy team; all the players are buying into that.”
The coach gives credit to libero Kylie Tamblyn, a former junior-college transfer from California, for her leadership.
“She was the MVP of the tournament last weekend,” said Devine. “She’s just a kid who has really matured and puts it all on the court. She keeps us in a lot of long rallies and has really set a standard for scrappiness.”
Senior Jamie Stancliff currently leads the conference in blocks, and sophomore Megan Devine is 26th nationally in kills.
n The men’s soccer team bounced back from its only loss to defeat William & Mary 2-0 last Sunday in Norfolk, Va., in a matchup of ranked team.
The Bucs (4-1) came in at No. 19 in the Soccer America poll, while the Tribe was No. 14.
The Bucs had been beaten 4-0 by host Old Dominion on Friday night, allowing their only goals of the season. They returned to form against William & Mary thanks to goals by freshman Simon Schroettle and junior Frank Doumbe, and Ryan Coulter’s fourth shutout.
ETSU hosts Davidson on Saturday night. The game begins at 7.
n Make it four in a row for the women’s soccer team.
The Lady Bucs improved to 4-2 with their 2-1 victory over Wright State in a tournament at Oxford, Ohio. They were scheduled to meet Miami of Ohio in the final of the Redhawk Shootout, but the match was cancelled because of heavy rains.
ETSU plays Saturday at Winthrop, then opens its A-Sun schedule next Friday against South Carolina Upstate.
Freshman Jenna Caudle currently leads the team with four goals. Senior Genna Petersen and sophomore Molly Vaughn have two apiece.
n Fall practice has begun for the ETSU baseball team.
The Bucs had scrimmages over the weekend at Joe O’Brien Field in Elizabethton and will continue to work out there until the Blue and Gold Fall World Series in mid-October.
Nine newcomers, including Science Hill products Will Carter and Zach Thompson, have joined 20 returnees from a team that finished 36-21 last season.