ELON, N.C. – The Elon University softball team released its 2016 schedule today, Dec. 2, as announced by Phoenix head coach Kathy Bocock. The competitive, 54-game slate features 11 teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season including a scheduled contest versus defending NCAA champion Florida.
The 2016 schedule will also feature the Phoenix competing at five tournaments and its second season in the Colonial Athletic Association. The slate also includes 28 games at the home confines of Hunt Softball Park.
“We’re very happy with our schedule this year,” said Bocock, who is in her fifth overall season at the helm of the program. “We’ve always welcomed strong and challenging competition to help us get better and build our confidence for conference play.”
After achieving its highest winning percentage since 2010, the Phoenix returns 10 letterwinners and seven starters from its 2015 squad. Elon also welcomes back its top two pitchers in terms of innings pitched. Junior Alaina Hall headlines the returners after earning second team All-CAA accolades while second-year players Hannah Olson and Kara Shutt received spots on the CAA All-Rookie team a year ago.
Here are five things to know about the 2016 Elon softball schedule.
Tournaments, Tournaments and Tournaments
Elon is slated to compete in five tournaments during the year, which spread over the states of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. The Phoenix opens the season at the University of Georgia on Feb. 13-14, at the seventh annual Red and Black Showcase in Athens, Ga., before heading to Orlando, Fla., for a trip to the Citrus Classic on Feb. 19-21. In Orlando, Elon will square off against a very competitive field of Stephen F. Austin, Missouri, Omaha, Jacksonville State and Florida, the reigning NCAA Tournament champion.
The Phoenix will host the first of two home tournaments on Feb. 27-28 with participants North Carolina A&T and Fairleigh Dickinson before trekking to the state of South Carolina for a tournament at USC Upstate on March 5-6. Elon will face the host Spartans along with Valparaiso, SIU-Edwardsville and Presbyterian.
The maroon and gold hosts its final tournament of the season on March 11-13. Central Connecticut State, Oakland and Niagara all make the trip to Hunt Softball Park.
2015 NCAA Tournament Qualifiers
As mentioned earlier, the Phoenix’s 2016 schedule features a number of teams that qualified for the 2015 NCAA Softball Championship. Georgia, Florida, Missouri, USC Upstate, North Carolina, Central Connecticut State, Oakland, NC State, Virginia Tech and league foes Hofstra and James Madison are among the teams listed on the Phoenix’s 2016 slate.
Of the 11, Elon has faced all but Florida and Missouri in recent years and last met Oakland on the softball diamond in 2006. The Phoenix earned wins over USC Upstate, Hofstra and NC State last season and picked up its first-ever win over Georgia in 2013 with a 5-2 win at the then eighth-ranked Bulldogs.
Familiar Opponents Make-Up Non-Conference Schedule
Elon will face a number of familiar and in-state opponents during its non-conference slate. The Phoenix hosts North Carolina A&T on Feb. 16 in its home-opener, followed by a trip to Campbell on Feb. 24. The maroon and gold then hosts North Carolina on March 6, before taking on Charlotte at Hunt Softball Park 10 days later on March 16.
After a weekend home series against Lafayette on March 19-20, Elon treks down I-40 to UNCG for a contest against its Triad rival on March 23. The Phoenix has a road game at NC State on April 6, before a rematch against UNCG at home on April 13. Elon wraps up its non-conference slate with games at NC A&T on April 20, and at home versus Virginia Tech on April 27.
CAA: Year Two
Elon begins its second year in the CAA as the Phoenix opens league play on March 26-27, at home versus Drexel. The following weekend, April 2-3, the Phoenix welcomes College of Charleston to Hunt Softball Park and hosts defending league tournament champion Hofstra at Elon for the first time on April 9-10.
The Phoenix travels for series at Towson (April 16-17) and UNCW (April 23-24) before hosting its final league games against reigning CAA regular-season champion JMU on April 30-May 1. Elon wraps up its regular-season at Delaware on May 6-7.
Last season, Elon finished third in its first year in the CAA with an 11-10 record, its first winning conference record since 2011. The Phoenix also earned a spot to the CAA Softball Championship as the No. 3 seed in the four-team tournament field.
Nice to Meet You
Elon’s schedule features six teams it will face for the first time ever on the softball diamond. The Phoenix plays first-time opponents Stephen F. Austin, Missouri, Omaha and Florida at the Citrus Classic on Feb. 19-21 and will host Valparaiso and Fairleigh Dickinson at its home tournament on Feb. 27-28.