ISU Releases 2009 Softball Schedule
Dec. 16, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State head softball coach Melinda Fischer released the Redbird softball team's 2009 schedule Tuesday. The schedule features 14 teams that participated in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, including defending national champion Arizona State.
The Redbirds' 2009 schedule includes a month-long stretch at the start of the season in which ISU will face 11 teams that played in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
"It's always been our philosophy to schedule the best competition, especially early in the season," said Fischer. "I'm very appreciative of our athletics administration for allowing us to travel to such high-caliber tournaments as we will compete in.
"It's important for our team, with such a strong senior class returning, to play as strong of a schedule as possible before our conference season starts so we are ready to compete in what is always a very tough Missouri Valley Conference."
The Redbirds begin the season at the USF Louisville Slugger Tournament in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 6-8. ISU will square off against Florida Gulf Coast, UNC-Greensboro, Minnesota, North Florida and tournament-host USF (2008 NCAA Tournament team).
The following weekend (Feb. 13-15), Illinois State will make its annual pilgrimage to Tempe, Ariz., for the Littlewood Classic. That tournament will feature the Illinois State softball program's seventh game all-time against a defending NCAA Women's College World Series (WCWS) Champion when the Redbirds take on 2008 national champion Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. CST Feb. 13. ISU will also play against Idaho State and 2008 NCAA Tournament teams Iowa, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Kent State.
The Redbirds own a 2-4 record all-time in games played against a defending WCWS winner. Illinois State last played a defending national champion Feb. 23, 2003, when it lost, 11-0, to then-No. 3 California at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic. The Golden Bears had won the 2002 WCWS via a 6-0 victory over 2001 national champion Arizona in the title game.
"Any time you have the opportunity to play the defending national champion, it's a tremendous experience for your student-athletes, coaches and your program," said Fischer. "Playing Arizona State means that we are playing the best-of-the-best from 2008, and that's very exciting for our program."
Illinois State will then take a weekend off from competition before resuming its tough early-season tournament schedule at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., Feb. 27-29. The Redbirds will face four 2008 NCAA Tournament teams at the Leadoff Classic, as they are slated to take on Long Island, Georgia Tech, LSU and Virginia Tech. Sandwiched in between those games will be a matchup with South Carolina.
A trip to California and the campus of Stanford for the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic will wrap up Illinois State's tournament schedule March 6-8. ISU will take on 2008 NCAA Tournament participants San Diego State and Stanford during the tournament's first day of action, followed by Penn State, Vermont and UC-Davis. Wrapping up the trip to the West Coast for ISU will be a March 10 game against San Jose State in San Jose, Calif.
The Redbirds will begin a new era at their home field March 14-15, when they begin Missouri Valley Conference play against Bradley at the recently renamed Marian Kneer Softball Stadium. A midweek non-conference home game against Illinois (March 17) will set up Illinois State's first big conference series of the season, when 2008 Valley regular-season champion Creighton is scheduled to visit Normal, Ill., March 21-22 for a three-game conference set against ISU. Another tough midweek matchup will pit ISU against 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Iowa at Marian Kneer Softball Stadium March 25. That game will begin an eight-game homestand for the Redbirds, as they are also scheduled to play host to Valley foes Southern Illinois (March 28-29), Indiana State (April 1) and Missouri State (April 4-5).
Illinois State will then hit the road again for a 10-game road swing. Following an April 7 showdown against Illinois in Urbana, Ill., Illinois State will take on 2008 NCAA Tournament teams Drake (April 10-11) and DePaul (April 15), along with Wichita State (April 18-19) and Indiana State (April 22).
The Redbirds will close out the home portion of their 2009 season April 25-26 with a three-game MVC series against Northern Iowa. ISU will then conclude the regular season on the road against Northern Illinois (April 28) and Evansville (May 2-3).
"The Missouri Valley Conference is again going to be an extremely strong softball league in 2009," said Fischer. "Every team has improved from top to bottom, and each year, due to teams in the conference playing tougher competition, the league's RPI (rating percentage index) continues to improve. Our league, overall, has a tremendous amount of parity, and that helps every team in the conference."
The 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Softball Tournament will take place May 7-9 in East Peoria, Ill. The NCAA Tournament begins at campus sites with the NCAA Regional (May 15-16) and NCAA Super Regional (May 22-24). The 2009 NCAA Women's College World Series is slated for May 28-June 3 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
Illinois State returns seven starters from last year's 28-20 (17-7 MVC) team that finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference during the regular season. The Redbirds welcome seven newcomers to the squad this spring. Fischer is beginning her 24th season at the helm of the Redbird softball program and owns a career mark of 784-513-4 (752-503-4 at ISU).