JMU roundup: Dukes announced 2014 softball slate

Daily Staff Report – sports@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG — After receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history a year ago, the James Madison softball team looks to test itself again with a difficult slate of games in 2014. JMU head coach Mickey Dean released the Dukes’ full 56-game slate on Thursday.

“We wanted to make it as challenging as possible,” Dean stated in a news release. “We have a lot of teams on there that were in NCAA Regionals last season and a couple that made the World Series. I think for our program to get where we want it to be, we need to play those types of teams. We wanted it to be tough so that when we get into conference play, we are ready.”

The 2014 schedule includes 19 games played at home at Veterans Memorial Park, 18 road games and 19 neutral site games. The slate has 20 games against teams that participated in last season’s NCAA Tournament with two of them participating in NCAA Super Regionals. The Dukes also play 25 games against teams ranked in the top 100 of last year’s final NCAA Ratings Percent Index (RPI) with 14 of those games coming against teams that finished in the top 35.

The Dukes makes trips to Athens, Ga., Orlando, Fla., Clearwater, Fla., Honolulu, Blacksburg and Charlottesville in the non-conference, kicking the season off with five games in the Red and Black Showcase at the University of Georgia. Joining the Dukes and Bulldogs in the three-day event are North Texas and Winthrop.

Following the trip to Georgia, Madison makes consecutive trips to the Sunshine State playing in the UCF Holiday Inn Classic in Orlando Fla., from Feb. 14-16 followed by the NFCA Lead Off Classic the next weekend. JMU opens up at home by hosting the JMU Invitational from Feb. 28-March 2. Coming to Harrisonburg are teams from Dartmouth, Fairfield, Kent State and Penn State.

After a brief appearance at home, JMU ventures to Hawaii for two tournaments played over eight days. The Dukes start with the Hawaii Spring Fling with games against Pacific, California and Hawaii. The next week, Madison takes on Brigham Young, Valparaiso, Hawaii and Oregon in the Pepsi Rainbow Wahine Classic.

Colonial Athletic Association play kicks off the next weekend with defending league champion Hofstra venturing to Harrisonburg for a three-game series on March 22-23.

Other home CAA series include competitions against Towson (April 5-6) and Delaware (April 26-27) with road trips set for the College of Charleston (March 29-30), Drexel (April 12-13) and North Carolina-Wilmington (May 2-3).

Midweek non-conference games have JMU hosting Longwood (April 9), North Carolina (April 16) and East Carolina (April 30) with trips to Virginia Tech (March 26) and Virginia (April 22).

The 2014 CAA Championship is slated for May 7-10 at the site of the regular season champion. NCAA Regional play gets under way the next weekend.