ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis head softball coach Christy Connoyer has announced the Billikens' 2013 schedule, a 56-game slate that features five 2012 NCAA Tournament qualifiers, three conference champions and seven teams ranked among the top 100 in the final NCAA Division I Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
Among the 2012 NCAA Tournament qualifiers on the schedule is Missouri, which posted a 47-14 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament super-regional round (final 16). The Tigers were ranked 11th in the final National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll and finished 14th in the RPI. In Atlantic 10 Conference play, the Billikens will face NCAA participant Massachusetts (38-13), which captured the league's regular-season and tournament titles and finished 37th in the RPI.
NCAA Tournament teams UT Martin (39-22), Mississippi Valley State (34-19) and Arkansas also are on the Billiken slate. UT Martin won the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season and tournament crowns, while Mississippi Valley State claimed the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship after finishing first in the SWAC East Division. Arkansas was 42nd in the final RPI and received votes in the season-ending NFCA poll.
The other four RPI top-100 teams on the schedule are Illinois (59), Southern Illinois (77), Indiana (90) and A-10 rival Fordham (93).
"I'm very excited about our schedule," Connoyer said. "We have a competitive tournament schedule, including Big Ten and Southeastern Conference opponents, that will be a good test for our team. Those early games will prepare us well for A-10 Conference play. There is much parity in the A-10, and we are looking forward to competing day in and day out against quality conference opponents.
"Late March through April presents a strong home stand for us, as we play 15 games at SLU during that span," Connoyer said. "We are looking forward to a competitive season."
The Billikens open the campaign at the Jimmy John's Lion Classic 1 Feb. 8-10. SLU will face Jacksonville State, Nicholls State, UT Martin, tournament host Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech. Following a week off, Saint Louis takes on Murray State, Arkansas and Louisiana-Monroe at the Arkansas Invitational Feb. 22-24.
The annual Missouri Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will be hosted by Southeast Missouri State March 1-2. The Bills will meet SEMO, Missouri, UMKC and Missouri State. Tennessee State's Tiger Classic is up next March 8-10, with the Billikens scheduled to play Nebraska Omaha, Tennessee State, Alabama State, Mississippi Valley State and Indiana.
Saint Louis plays its home opener March 13 when Bradley visits the Billiken Sports Center for a doubleheader. The Billikens conclude regular-season tournament action March 15-17 at Illinois' Fighting Illini Invitational, with Loyola Chicago, Western Michigan and Illinois on the docket. Loyola Chicago was the 2012 Horizon League Tournament runner-up.
SLU travels to Carbondale, Ill., March 20 to play a doubleheader against regional rival Southern Illinois, last year's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament runner-up. The Bills begin A-10 competition by welcoming St. Bonaventure for a twinbill March 24, then conclude the month with home doubleheaders against UT Martin (March 27) and league foe Dayton (March 30).
The month of April features seven home dates in a 13-day span. Saint Louis begins the month on the road, however, with an April 7 doubleheader against George Washington, the 2012 A-10 Tournament runner-up, and an April 10 single game against local rival SIUE.
The Billikens then begin a string of 10 consecutive A-10 contests. Fordham, the 2012 regular-season runner-up, comes to town for single games April 12-13, and La Salle visits the BSC for an April 14 doubleheader. Following a twinbill at new conference member Butler April 16, SLU returns home to host Temple (single games April 19-20) and Saint Joseph's (doubleheader April 21). SIUE crosses the Mississippi River April 24 for a non-conference tilt that concludes Saint Louis' home schedule. A-10 single games at Charlotte April 26-27 wrap up the April slate.The Bills make a return trip to Cape Girardeau May 1 for a doubleheader against Southeast Missouri State. SLU closes the regular season at A-10 opponents Rhode Island (single games May 3-4) and Massachusetts (doubleheader May 5). UMass hosts the Atlantic 10 Championship May 8-11.