By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech women's basketball team is certainly up for a challenge.
Why not? The Golden Eagles return nearly the entire lineup, while reaching the Ohio Valley Conference tournament semifinals two of the last three years. That talented roster includes three 1,000-point scorers, three all-OVC selections, an OVC all-newcomer and statistical leaders who still have plenty more to add to their stories.
The 2021-22 season is all about making that next step, and, well – as the saying goes – if you're going to be the best, you have to beat the best. When you have in-state rivals like Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee and Chattanooga, then sprinkle in teams like Western Kentucky, Samford, Florida Gulf Coast and New Mexico State just to name a few, it's definitely going to be a tough test.
Tech head coach Kim Rosamond isn't letting her team shy away from any such challenge – they're welcoming it with open arms.
"This is the most challenging non-conference schedule we have put together in the last five seasons," Rosamond said, "but this is also the most experienced and deep roster we have had at Tech in a very long time. When we start conference play on December 30th, we will have already faced two teams from the SEC and three teams that won their league last season and will most likely be the favorite to repeat this season. This schedule will test us early both at home and on the road, and our team is excited for the opportunities ahead of us this season."
Times for the contests will be announced at a later date.
The Tech women open the slate at home on October 28 with an exhibition matchup with Christian Brothers as part of the Purple Palooza event, then host Bethel to begin the regular season on November 9.
The Golden Eagles conclude the initial homestand on November 13 as Chattanooga comes into the Eblen Center. The Mocs finished 14-10 last season and return two of their three double-digit scorers in Eboni Williams and Abbey Cornelius.
Tech hits the road for the first time on November 18 to take on Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt, then return home on the 22nd to face traditional rival Middle Tennessee. The Commodores are now under the direction of Shea Ralph, a 13-year assistant coach under UConn legend Geno Auriemma. Vandy returns just one of its top four scorers from a season ago in Brinae Alexander (11.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
The Blue Raiders, meanwhile, finished 17-8, including a 12-4 run in Conference USA. MTSU defeated Rice 68-65 in the C-USA tournament title game to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Like Vanderbilt, the Blue Raiders also lost three of their top four scorers from last season, with Courtney Whitson (10.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) standing as the top returnee.
The Golden Eagles will go on their longest road trip of the campaign from November 26 to December 9. Kicking the jaunt off is a trip to Puerto Rico to play FGCU and New Mexico State in the San Juan Shootout. The Eagles finished 26-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Sun regular season at 16-0 and the conference tournament to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU returns its top player in Kierstan Bell, who averaged 24.3 points and 10.6 rebounds.
The Aggies wrapped up the 2020-21 campaign with a 9-12 record, 6-6 in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Golden Eagles return stateside for a contest 30 years in the making. The last time Tennessee Tech faced the University of Tennessee? February 2, 1991. On December 1, 2021, the series is renewed as the Golden Eagles head into Thompson-Boling Arena for the 28th meeting between the two teams – the Lady Vols leading the series 16-11.
The Lady Vols finished 17-8 last season, 9-4 in the SEC. Rae Burrell is the top returner, averaging 16.8 points and 4.6 rebounds. Tennessee fell to tournament champ South Carolina in the SEC semis, topped Middle Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, then saw its season come to an end with a loss to Michigan in the second round.
The road trip continues on December 5 as the Golden Eagles head to Bowling Green to take on Western Kentucky. The Lady Toppers finished 7-16 last season, 6-10 in C-USA play, but return Meral Abdelgawad (10.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) to the 2021-22 lineup.
Cullowhee, N.C., is the final stop for the Tech women's trip as the Golden Eagles face Western Carolina on December 9. The Catamounts finished 2020-21 with a 6-18 record, 3-10 in the Southern Conference.
Tech is back home for its final two non-conference contests, closing out that portion of the schedule just before Christmas break. The Golden Eagles entertain Tennessee Wesleyan on December 16 in their annual Education Day contest, then host Samford on December 21.
Samford finished 14-11 overall in 2020-21, but was 11-2 in the SoCon. The Bulldogs fell in the SoCon tournament, but reached the WNIT, where they dropped games to Ole Miss and Illinois State.
Tech opens OVC play on the road as the Golden Eagles face Tennessee State (December 30) and Murray State (January 1), then return home for Morehead State (January 6) and Eastern Illinois (January 8). The Golden Eagles travel to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Martin, Tenn., on January 13 and 15 to take on Southeast Missouri and UT Martin respectively.
The Golden Eagles have three weeks in the regular-season campaign where the schedule splits home and away. On January 20, Tech will host SIUE, then travel to Belmont on January 22. It happens again as the Golden Eagles travel to Morehead State on February 3 before hosting Belmont on February 5. The last time is a visit from Southeast Missouri on February 17 before traveling to Clarksville to take on Austin Peay on February 19.
Tech hosts Murray State (January 27) and Austin Peay (January 29), travels to Eastern Illinois (February 10) and SIUE (February 12), before closing out the regular season at home against Tennessee State (February 24) and UT Martin (February 26).
The Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championships will be held once again at Evansville's Ford Center, scheduled for March 2 through 5.
Season tickets for Tennessee Tech women's basketball are now on sale. To order, call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information