Head Coach Susie Gardner and the Mercer women’s basketball team released its 2012-13 season schedule on, featuring contests against schools from the Big East, ACC and SEC.
The Bears 2012-13 season features 14 home games, and six contests against teams that participated in post-season play in either the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT one year ago.
“I think there is always an excitement when a new year begins and our players definitely feel it just as we do as coaches,” Gardner said. “We had eight first-year players last year and to me an athlete changes the most between their freshman and sophomore year. We can tell already that they have more confidence and that they know what is expected from them moving forward.”
Susie Gardner’s squad opens their season as part of Homecoming Weekend following the men’s basketball game, taking on Division II opponent Brevard College in Hawkins Arena at the University Center on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.
After a road contest at Troy University on Nov. 14 and a home match-up against Jacksonville State University on Nov. 17, Mercer travels to South Bend, Indiana to take on the 2012 NCAA Tournament runner-up the University Notre Dame on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. Notre Dame finished last season with a 35-4 overall record and returns two starters from last year’s squad, including the All-American point-guard Skylar Diggins.
After leaving Indiana, Mercer travels to Furman University on Nov. 24 and hosts Davidson University on Nov. 28 before a rematch with in-state powerhouse the University of Georgia on Dec. 4. The Bulldogs were 22-9 overall in 2012 and return four starters from a team that made their 18th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament last season.
“Anytime the average fan picks up our schedule obviously the Notre Dame, Georgia and Florida State games stand out the most,” Gardner said. “At the same time, you look at schools like Davidson and High Point, from similar mid-major conferences, and it makes for a very competitive non-conference schedule.”
Following road games at Georgia Southern University and ACC member Florida State University that bookend a home date against Alabama State University on Dec. 16, Mercer concludes its non-conference match-ups with a home game against High Point University on Dec. 21. Quite possibly the highlight of the 2011-12 season for Mercer came in the form of a 75-67 win at High Point, who went 20-13 overall and was selected to participate in last year’s WNIT.
“Coach Wierzba is in charge of our scheduling and we work together to schedule games that will challenge our players and give us different looks,” Gardner said. “You want teams that will press you, teams that will zone you, teams with shooters and teams that have athleticism and I think we have combined all those styles to make this a very challenging group of non-conference games.”
The Bears open competition in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a daunting home doubleheader against Stetson University on Dec. 31 and Florida Gulf Coast University on Jan. 2. Stetson finished 2012 with a school record 23 wins and a berth in the WNIT, while FGCU made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance last season after winning the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship.
Other matchups on the Orange and Black’s conference schedule include a three-game home stand from Feb. 2-11, featuring games against in-state rival Kennesaw State University, Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida.
Mercer has the advantage of once again hosting the 2012 Atlantic Sun Women’s Basketball Championship for the fourth and final time beginning on March 6.
“One of the biggest draws for me coming to Mercer two years ago was when President Underwood expressed to me his desire to host the conference tournament at Mercer and to keep it here,” Gardner said. “Our goal this year is to be one of the top eight teams in our league and to participate in our conference tournament. For our program to grow and take that next step our players need to experience playing in a pressure packed post-season tournament and I think we have a great shot to do that this season.”
The Bears do have a tremendous amount of talent returning to Mercer, with all five starters and 99 percent of their scoring back in the fold for the upcoming 2012-13 season.