On Nov. 9, Michigan fans will have their first opportunity to see a women”s basketball team that has been ranked as high as No. 10 by some preseason publications.
But they better try to keep that game fresh in their minds, because it will be a long time before they see the Wolverines in action again.
After the exhibition opener against Latvia Clondica, the Wolverines begin the regular season with nine of their first 10 games on the road. The stretch will include trips to New Hampshire, New York, Washington and two ventures to Louisiana.
“I hope we tease everybody in our exhibition game and we”re able to get people back when we open against Marquette (on Nov. 29),” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said during the Wolverines” media day on Friday. “When you look at our schedule, not only are we on the road, but this is a very challenging schedule and one that our players are really looking forward to playing.
“It will get us ready for the Big Ten.”
Guevara will learn a lot about her team right away, as the Wolverines make their first appearance in Louisiana to play Louisiana Tech. Last year, the Lady Techsters made it to the NCAA Tournament”s Elite Eight. But they also lost, 69-66, in Ann Arbor during the regular season.
After Louisiana Tech, Michigan faces trips to Detroit, New Hampshire and Syracuse before getting its home opener.
“Certainly it will help our confidence level if we can beat Louisiana Tech and some of these other tough teams,” forward Stephanie Gandy said. “It would give us momentum going into the next game, and getting road wins is very key seeing as how we don”t have many home games.”
Things do not get any easier for Michigan after Marquette visits. Three days later, the Wolverines take on defending national champion Notre Dame in Grand Rapids. A weekend excursion to Seattle to play Washington State and another Elite Eight team in Washington will be followed with games at Toledo and Louisiana State before the Wolverines finally return home.
They will host Oakland on Dec. 21 for their second and final home non-conference game.
“At first I didn”t want to go on the road that much,” center Jennifer Smith said. “But actually when I started to think about it, it”s a challenge. Every single game on the road I just want to play that much harder just to shut up the crowd and show them what we have.
“It”s a challenge to go on the road, and as a team last year we played better on the road.”
As always, the conference schedule will be tough. Two games with 2000 NCAA runner-up Purdue highlight the schedule, but Penn State, Iowa and the rest of the conference will not allow the Wolverines to rest especially with the high expectations placed on this year”s team.
Seven players return from last year”s team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, including four starters. In addition, Michigan has added a top-notch recruiting class that includes Tabitha Poole from Ann Arbor Huron High School. Poole was named Miss Basketball for the state of Michigan in 2000.
Four separate preseason publications have listed Michigan among the top 25 in the country. If the Wolverines can succeed in spite of their brutal schedule, the players believe that they will have proved that Michigan belongs among the upper echelon of teams in the country.
“I think the opportunity is there and we have high expectations for ourselves,” co-captain Heather Oesterle said. “The thing I think that we have over other teams is we have people that have been there, have gotten the experience, and know what we have to do.”