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LU softball’s 2017 schedule unveiled

A season after capturing its second straight Big South regular season and conference tournament title, the Longwood University softball team will play 21 games against squads that finished inside the top 100 of the 2016 softball RPI rankings on the schedule unveiled by two-time Big South Coach of the Year Kathy Riley.

The Lancers will take on five teams from Power Five conferences — three from the ACC, one from the SEC and one from the PAC-12. For the fourth consecutive year, Longwood will play North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech, against whom the Lancers went 4-4 last season on the way to a 40-20 record and their inaugural trip to the NCAA Regional Championship game.

Longwood’s non-conference opponents combined to post more than 600 victories a season ago and combine for a .579 win percentage. In addition, the Lancers will play 10 games against seven teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season ago.

For the second straight year, Longwood will open the season at the South Carolina Classic, hosted by South Carolina. Ohio and Charlotte round out the four teams playing in Columbia.

Next, the Lancers travel to Troy, Ala., for a tournament hosted by Troy, highlighted by a Feb. 18 matchup against Jacksonville. That game against the Dolphins will pit Jacksonville Head Coach and former Longwood Assistant Coach Jen Steele against her mentor and former collegiate coach in Riley. In addition, the Lancers will play two games against both Troy and 2016 NCAA Regional qualifier Samford.

Following that tourney, the Lancers play a two-day tournament at UNCG against the host Spartans and George Washington Feb. 25-26.

Longwood opens the home slate with a three-game series against Hofstra, set to be played March 4-5 with the doubleheader to be played March 4. That series precedes the final early season tournament at Long Beach State, where Longwood will face national powerhouse programs UCLA (March 10) and Cal State Fullerton (March 11). In addition, the Lancers will square off against Eastern Michigan (March 10), San Diego State (March 11) and Harvard (March 12).

The Lancers travel to North Carolina March 29 for a doubleheader rematch of Longwood’s nine-inning walk-off win over the Tar Heels last season in the NCAA Harrisonburg Regional.

Other non-conference doubleheaders include trips to James Madison for a match-up that will see two of the NCAA’s top mid-major programs the last four seasons go head-to-head. In addition, the Lancers will travel to Virginia Tech for a single game April 11, while hosting Towson (March 22), Virginia (March 28) and East Carolina (April 19).

Longwood opens the Big South schedule March 18-19 in Buies Creek, N.C. It will mark the first trip back to Amanda Littlejohn Stadium for the Lancers since capturing the first of two straight Big South championships.

Other Big South road series include a trip to Winthrop (March 31-April 1) before playing the final two series of the season on the road against Commonwealth foes Liberty (April 25-26) and Radford (April 28-29).

Longwood will welcome Gardner-Webb (April 8-9), Presbyterian (April 14-15) and Charleston Southern (April 22-23) to Lancer Field this season.