Daunting 2018-19 schedule awaits Lady Railsplitters

Published 8:52 pm Monday, August 13, 2018

HARROGATE, Tenn. — The 2018-19 Lincoln Memorial University women’s basketball schedule has been leaked, and there’s one thing it isn’t lacking: toughness.

Through the 28-game schedule, including 20 South Atlantic Conference matchups, the Lady Railsplitters will be pushed to their limits and it’ll start from the get-go.

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

The LMU women will embark a new feat this season by facing a Southeastern Conference team for the first time in program history.

On Nov. 2, the Lady Railsplitters will travel to Kentucky for an exhibition matchup.

It’s a preseason game — facing a SEC squad — that head coach Krystal Evans thought would draw a ton of interest. She tossed around the idea of maybe playing Tennessee, but LMU’s conference foe Carson-Newman already had that in-state matchup locked down.

So, Evans went to the next closest SEC squad: Kentucky.

“In this area, you’re either a die-hard Vols fan or a die-hard Wildcats fan,” she said. “I thought, ‘Well, I can’t get into Tennessee so let me go to the Big Blue Nation.’ It brings excitement around the program.”

Evans was successful, penciling in Kentucky for a game inside its Memorial Coliseum to get a good feel from her squad after just two-and-half weeks of practice.

The fifth-year coach knows the Wildcats will reveal any blemishes her Lady Railsplitters have, which is the main objective, but Evans also wants to illustrate with a solid outing who LMU, the school institution just 134 miles up the road, is.

“I want Kentucky to come in and expose everything we need to work on so we can get polished before we head down to Florida,” the LMU head coach said. “If you’re using your scrimmages and exhibitions for that nature, then I think you’re doing it the right way. At the end of the day after that exhibition game, you’re still 0-0, but if you didn’t get better then it’s a total waste.

“I’m really hoping Kentucky does that for us because when you’re playing against your first five and second five in practice, there’s things that look really good. Then you realize maybe I was wrong and tinker here and fix this.”

ROADRUNNER

After facing a team in arguably the toughest conference in Division I women’s basketball, the Lady Railsplitters will travel south for the SAC vs. Peach Belt Conference Challenge in Augustine, Florida.

It’s a four-year contract, where each team involved will host the tournament. The first being Flagler, who the Lady Railsplitters will play in the opening game on Nov. 9 followed by a matchup with Georgia Southwestern the next day.

Once LMU gets back to Harrogate, the Lady Railsplitters won’t be able to settle in for long as they head north to Southern Indiana for a Nov. 14 game.

“You’re going to Kentucky and then you turn around and you’re going to St. Augustine, Florida, for two games,” Evans said. “Then you return, and I think we’ll be in town for one day then we turn around and go to Southern Indiana. That’s not ideal. They better sink or swim, quick.”

HOME AGAIN

After spending half of November on the road, the Lady Railsplitters come back to Harrogate for a four-game home stand.

First, it’s King University for their home opener on Nov. 20 before having an earned week off to prep for the first South Atlantic Conference game in reigning SAC champions, Carson-Newman.

“Carson-Newman right off the bat, I feel like they are going to go through a mini battle the first few weeks with being on the road,” Evans said, “then the first conference game you got back home is the returning champions from last season. I’m excited because I feel like we are facing a lot of adversity early on, and I feel like we can really mature and it can really help us. Carson-Newman, that game is like a different animal.

“I think our kids are going to be excited because it’s a SAC game and the importance steps up a notch — not that they aren’t all important — you want to win them all and they all matter when it comes down to the postseason, but the conference games really matter when it comes down to winning conference championships and things of that nature.”

The Lady Railsplitters face SAC opponents Coker, Queens, Wingate and Anderson — with non-conference teams North Greenville and Tennessee Wesleyan sandwiched in — before Christmas break comes around after traveling to Anderson Dec. 19.

Fresh off a week off, LMU will start the second half of the season at Clayton State on New Year’s Eve to cap off the home-and-home series.

“Every coach is always concerned with how their team returns from break,” Evans said. “It’ll be a good test, too.

THE LAST STRETCH

The Lady Railsplitters will start the New Year at home, hosting Newberry to start a 15-of-16 game conference stretch to end the regular season.

The lone non-conference game in that stretch is soon-to-be SAC opponent UVA-Wise on Jan. 7. It’ll be a matchup the Lady Railsplitters are looking to take back this season after falling to the Lady Cavs last November, 83-80, and a squad Evans thinks will fit into the SAC nicely.

“As far as an institution outside of their team, they just have a great facility,” she said. “It was a great environment to play in. I hate we were on the bad side, the losing side, but it was good atmosphere. A nice gym.

“I think them coming into our league, I understand it. The location of it is convenient. I think they have a real pretty campus. I think they’ll be successful in the SAC. They have the resources to be successful in the SAC.”

After hosting the Lady Cavs, LMU will wrap up the regular season with 14 consecutive conference games — six at home and eight on the road — before the SAC Championship starts March 6 at the higher seed.

The SAC Championship semifinals and title games will be held in Greenville, South Carolina at Timmons Arena.