MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Barry University's NCAA Division II defending national champion women's tennis team will open the spring season 3 p.m. Feb. 10 against Palm Beach Atlantic at Buccaneer Tennis Center.
The Buccaneers, ranked No. 1 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's preseason rankings, will have 11 home dates in 2015. The Bucs host No. 3 Saint Leo on Saturday, Feb. 21 in the first Sunshine State Conference match. The next day, Barry meets No. 2 Armstrong Atlantic, whom the Bucs defeated 5-4 to win the NCAA Championship in May, at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.
"The schedule is meant to push us and see where we're at," Barry seven-year coach Avi Kigel said. "Saint Leo has become one of the top teams in the country the last couple years. And right after that we have Armstrong, who has been one of our top rivals. It's a great weekend to show us where we are at, moving forward. It's going to be a big weekend, and hopefully very exciting with very good tennis. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Barry opens the conference season Saturday, Feb. 14 at Florida Tech. The Bucs also play at No. 10 Florida Southern March 21 in Lakeland, Fla. A day later, the Bucs meet No. 11 New York Tech also in Lakeland.
In the final weekend of February, Barry travels to Valdosta, Georgia, where the Buccaneers will play No. 7 West Florida, No. 15 Valdosta State and Brenau on successive days.
"We've been going up to Georgia every year or every other year to play two of the top teams from the Peach Belt and Gulf South Conference," Kigel said. "West Florida has been one of the top teams in the country. Valdosta has been down a little bit the last couple years, but they're going to be one of the top teams in the country again this year. It'll be another good weekend with three good matches to challenge us for conference, regionals and nationals."
Barry will play six matches at home in March. The Bucs host Division II No. 32-ranked St. Edward's on March 19, defending NAIA national champions Georgia Gwinnett on March 8 and NAIA perennial power Auburn Montgomery on March 25. That home stretch also features dates against Division I Butler on March 10 and New Mexico State on March 26.
"We're always looking to play as many Division I programs as we can," Kigel said. "New Mexico State is a very good Division I program. Our number one goal is to challenge ourselves. New Mexico State will present a nice challenge for us. Same thing with Butler, who will be down here for Spring Break. Any Division I programs that wants to come down and play us, we're definitely ready. We would love to play some of the Top-30 Division I programs."
The end of the Bucs' regular season is marked by four conference matches, including No. 5 Lynn and No. 35 Nova Southeastern at home on April 2 and 7, respectively, and No. 9 Rollins on the road on April 11. Barry concludes the regular season versus Flagler on April 12 at Buccaneer Tennis Center.
"Getting close to the conference tournament, we want to play quality teams," Kigel said. "Lynn has gotten much better, and so has Rollins. To play them both at the end of the season helps us get ready for the postseason tournaments. It's good to end with some tough opponents. Regardless, we've got to be ready whether it's February, March or April."