The women’s basketball team will be put to the test during three pre-league tournaments, as two opponents qualified for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
“This is a challenging non-league schedule, but one we are excited to embrace,” said Head Coach Tricia Cullop, who sits fourth in Mid-American Conference history in league win percentage (74-24, .755) and overall (141-60, .701) win percentage.
Toledo will square off against three teams that participated in the Big Dance and one that advanced to the WNIT prior to beginning Mid-American Conference play.
The Midnight Blue and Gold will take part in the Florida International Tournament Nov. 28 and Nov. 30, host the Glass City Classic Dec. 13-14, and participate in the New Orleans Shootout Dec. 19-20.
“I love giving our players tournament experience during the regular season to better prepare them for the MAC Tournament,” Cullop said. “We will face a variety of styles in a short amount of time and learn how to quickly prepare.”
The Rockets will battle Virginia (14-17, 6-10 ACC) and possibly the host Panthers (15-18, 6-10 Sun Belt) or Arizona (5-25, 1-17 Pac-12) at the Florida tourney.
A couple weeks later, Toledo will entertain Southeast Missouri State (10-19, 6-10 OVC) and 2014 NCAA Tournament participant Idaho (25-9, 15-1 WAC) as part of the classic. Former Rocket Kristi Zeller (2005-08) is an assistant coach for the Vandals. Detroit (6-24, 3-13 Horizon) is the other team competing in the tournament.
Following the classic, UT will compete against Nevada (18-13, 12-6 MWC) and Southern Illinois (5-25, 3-15 MVC) in the Big Easy.
“Our players are excited to head to New Orleans and Miami, as well as host the classic,” Cullop said. “These three tourneys will be great tests for us.”
After holding an exhibition game in early November, UT’s season officially tips off Nov. 14 at Cleveland State (14-16, 9-7 Horizon League).
Less than one week later, the Rockets will square off against 2014 WNIT participant St. Bonaventure (24-11, 11-5 A-10) Nov. 20 in their home opener. A year ago, UT overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to post a thrilling two-point road triumph in Olean, N.Y.
Toledo will then travel to 2014 NCAA Tournament qualifier Purdue (22-9, 11-5 Big Ten) Nov. 23 before heading to the Sunshine State to take part in the Florida tourney.
Following the tournament, Toledo will remain on the road and play at 2014 NCAA Tournament participant Dayton (23-8, 14-2 A-10) Dec. 10.
UT will then return home to host the third-annual Glass City Classic. The Rockets won the inaugural event two years ago, before Villanova captured the title last season.
After putting on the classic, Toledo will venture back to the road for the New Orleans Shootout before wrapping up non-league play against NCAA Division II member UW-Parkside (8-18, 4-14 GLVS) Dec. 30 at home.
Cullop and the Rockets then will turn their focus to the MAC slate, where they will engage in 18 games for a second straight season. UT will get things started Jan. 3 versus Miami (8-22, 4-14 MAC). Three of Toledo’s first four league games will take place at home.
“There’s no hiding we have a young team,” Cullop said. “It’s a blessing to know we can break them into MAC play in front of friendly confines.”
Toledo will play two games against each of the five other MAC West Division schools as well as 2014 MAC Tournament Champion Akron (23-10, 14-4 MAC) and Buffalo (17-13, 10-8 MAC) from the East Division throughout the regular season. UT also will face the remaining East Division teams once, with Kent State (7-23, 4-14 MAC) visiting the Glass City, and the Rockets traveling to Ohio (9-21, 4-14 MAC) and archrival 2014 WNIT participant Bowling Green (30-5, 17-1 MAC).
“For the first time in several years, I see the MAC being a wide-open race,” Cullop said. “A lot of key players graduated, so there’s a great opportunity in front of us.”
The Rockets will look to reclaim their perch atop the MAC in 2014-15. UT was decimated by injuries throughout the 2013-14 campaign and limped to a 16-16 overall mark, 9-9 in the league. Despite all the bumps and bruises from a season ago, UT tied for second place in the MAC West Division standings.
“Our goal each year is to win the league championship,” Cullop said. “That doesn’t change from year to year. With that being said, this team is not ready for that right now. It’s going to be a process, but I’m excited about going through it with this group. I do think we can challenge for the championship if we continue to improve every day.”
UT’s roster in 2014-15 will consist of seven returning letterwinners, including two starters, and seven newcomers.
Spearheading the group of returnees will be senior Inma Zanoguera and junior Ana Capotosto. The returning starters have played key roles, and their leadership will be an important factor for the young team.