SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo women's tennis team and Head Coach Chad Berryhill announce the 2017 schedule that features five Intercollegiate Tennis Association top 15-ranked opponents, and 11 home matches.
"Our goal with the schedule is to get some very good early tests, and we have that this season," said Berryhill of his squad's slate. "We play a few early matches before we play Nova Southeastern, defending champion Armstrong State, and then Barry. The schedule early on will be especially tough. We want to be tested early in the season so we can make adjustments down the stretch to be the best team possible come the end of the year when those matches are the most important."
Saint Leo will open 2017 with back-to-back home exhibition games. The Lions will take on State College of Florida, the No. 2 team in the JUCO rankings, on Feb. 4, and ASA Miami, the No. 3 JUCO team, on Feb. 12.
The first countable match for the Lions will be against Sunshine State Conference foe Florida Tech on Saint Leo's campus on Feb. 15.
In late February, the Lion hit a difficult stretch of the schedule. On Feb. 18, the Lions host No. 15 Nova Southeastern. They turn around the very next day to hit the road to take on No. 1 and reigning National Champions Armstrong State in Savannah, Ga. In 2016, the Lions took down Armstrong State, 5-4, in the regular season. On Feb. 24, the Lions return home to take on NAIA foe Saint Thomas before heading to Barry on Feb. 26 to take on the No. 6-ranked Bucs. The Lions will face three top 15 opponents within eight days.
"Playing against high-caliber competition is key to getting ready for conference play and throughout the season because you want to see where your team stands against the very best," Berryhill stated. "From there we can train our team to peak at the right time and make any changes needed to our game style or our doubles pairings to give us the best possible chance to win matches. We have a good mix of those matches being at home as well as on the road which is a good thing. You can only truly test your team by playing good competition, and we will learn which of our players will rise to the occasion and compete in those tough environments."
The Lions open up March at Rollins as they take on the Tars on March 1.
They then return home to take on Grand Valley State on March 10, and Dallas Baptist on March 13.
Saint Leo will then take on St. Mary's of Texas in Altamonte Springs, Fla., on March 16. Altamonte Springs is the site of the 2017 NCAA Championships.
A three-match home stand follows the Lions trip to Altamonte Springs. The team hosts West Virginia State on March 20 and follows with a home match against Eckerd on March 22. The third game of the stand will be against Embry-Riddle on March 25.
The Lions following three matches all take place on the road. On March 29, Saint Leo heads to Tampa to take on the Spartans, while on April 1, the Lions head to West Palm Beach to take on the Sailfish of Palm Beach Atlantic. The third road match is against Florida Southern on April 12.
Saint Leo closes out the regular season on March 14 with a home game against No. 3 Lynn.
The 2017 SSC Tournament will be held in Bradenton, Fla., and hosted by Eckerd College on April 20-22.
In the 2016 season, the Lions, who were pick No. 4 in the ITA DII 2017 preseason team rankings, went 23-3 and went undefeated in Sunshine State Conference play to take the regular season title. In the 2016 SSC Tournament, the Lions were upset by Barry, 5-4. Saint Leo went on to host the NCAA South Regional 1 and won the bid to the NCAA Tournament round of 16, where they finished as National Semifinalists. The Lions will look to replace key seniors Isabella Robbiani, Pauline Helgesson, and Coralie Pesenti.
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