BALTIMORE—The UMBC women's basketball team today revealed its 2011-12 schedule, highlighted by nine games against teams that advanced to the 2011 postseason, as well as seven in-state rivals. The Retrievers tip off the 29-game slate on Friday, Nov. 11, at home against cross-town rival Morgan State.
The Bears advanced to the semifinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament last season and earned a berth in the WNIT. UMBC and Morgan State have faced off 20 times, but despite the proximity of the two schools, the teams have not met since 2005. The Retrievers will face the Bears at 5 p.m. as part of a season-opening doubleheader with the UMBC men's team.
The Retrievers then visit former Northeast Conference foe Monmouth on Nov. 13, in the Hawks' season opener. UMBC has not faced Monmouth – a 2011 WNIT team after falling in the NEC title game – since 2003.
UMBC will take on Baltimore rival Coppin State for the sixth straight season on Nov. 16, at the Eagles' Physical Education Complex before returning home to host national powerhouse Maryland on Saturday, Nov. 19. Last season, the Terps, who were ranked 23rd in the final coaches poll, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after earning an at-large berth as the No. 4 seed. It will be Maryland's first trip to the RAC since 1988.
Next, the Retrievers will visit perennial opponents Loyola (Nov. 22) and Towson (Nov. 27) in back-to-back games to close out the month of November. The cross-town foes represent UMBC's oldest rivalries, as the Retrievers have faced the Tigers 45 times dating to 1969 and the Greyhounds 34 times since 1973. Loyola won a WNIT first-round game last season after falling in the MAAC championship.
UMBC opens December with three straight home games against Princeton (Dec. 3), UMES (Dec. 6) and George Mason (Dec. 8). This will be the Retrievers' second-ever meeting with the Tigers – the 2011 Ivy League champions – and their first since 1988. Conversely, the contests against the Hawks and Patriots represent rematches of two of UMBC's early losses from a year ago.
The Retrievers then visit a pair of NCAA participants in Hampton (Dec. 10) and Navy (Dec. 20). The Pirates were MEAC champions and nearly knocked off fourth-seeded Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling in overtime, while Navy won the Patriot League.
UMBC wraps up its non-conference slate at the Virginia Tech Tournament Dec. 28-29. The Retrievers will take on High Point in the first round, then face either Cincinnati or the host Hokies. Either opponent in the second round will represent a reunion of sorts for the Retrievers, as former assistant coach Katie Rokus is an assistant for the Bearcats, while former assistant coach Billi Godsey is on the Virginia Tech staff.
"We're excited to challenge our veteran group with a difficult non-conference schedule," head coach Phil Stern said. "We feel it will ready us for the rigors of America East Conference play."
UMBC begins its defense of its 2011 America East regular-season title defense on Monday, Jan. 2 against New Hampshire before embarking on a two-game road trip to Albany (Jan. 4) and Maine (Jan. 7). The Retrievers will look to exact revenge on the Black Bears in Orono, the site of one of their three conference losses last season.
UMBC then returns home for a pair of games at the RAC against Stony Brook (Jan. 12) and defending champion Hartford (Jan. 16). The Martin Luther King showdown with the Hawks will be a rematch of the 2010 America East semifinals, when No. 4 Hartford, playing on its home court, knocked out the top-seeded Retrievers, who swept the regular-season series.
The Retrievers play three of the final four games in January on the road, with trips to Binghamton (Jan. 19), Vermont (Jan. 22) and New Hampshire (Jan. 28). The lone home game in that period is Wednesday, Jan. 25 against Boston University, when UMBC will hold its seventh annual Midday Madness. The Retrievers will welcome hundreds of local elementary and middle school students to the RAC for the noon tipoff against the Terriers, who advanced to the America East title game last season.
UMBC opens February with back-to-back home games against Albany (Feb. 1) and Maine (Feb. 4). The Saturday afternoon game against the Black Bears will be the first half of a doubleheader with the Retriever men as UMBC celebrates its biennial Hall of Fame Day.
Following a trip to Stony Brook on Feb. 8, the Retrievers will host Binghamton on Feb. 15, for the annual Pink Zone game to help raise breast cancer awareness. Proceeds from the game will benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
The Retrievers' final road trip of the season will prove challenging, as they will visit both America East finalists from a year ago in Hartford (Feb. 19) and Boston University (Feb. 22). UMBC will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday, Feb. 25, against Vermont, when the team will honor its three seniors, Erin Brown, Michelle Kurowski and Topé Obajolu, before the season finale.
For the third year in a row, the America East Men's and Women's Basketball Championships will be held in a combined format. The first three rounds will take place at Hartford's Chase Arena March 1-4, while the title games will be played the following weekend at the home court of the highest remaining seeds.
The Retrievers return seven players, including three starters, from last year's team, which went 20-12 overall and 13-3 in conference play to win its first-ever America East regular-season title. UMBC took the league by surprise, posting 10 wins in its last 11 games after being picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. After falling to Hartford in the semifinals of the America East Championship, the Retrievers earned the conference's automatic berth to the women's National Invitation Tournament, where they took on the University of Florida. Stern was named America East Coach of the Year, while Kurowski, Brown and Obajolu each earned all-conference honors.