CHARLESTON — According to first-year Eastern Illinois University women's coach Matt Bollant, a good portion of the 2017-18 schedule was already set when he set foot on campus. Still, his staff was able to put some nice finishing touches on the the schedule for the upcoming season.
EIU will play 14 games at Lantz Arena during the regular season, including five non-conference games against NCAA Division I opponents. Bollant also added a guarantee game at Northwestern this season.
The first game of the Bollant-era at EIU is an exhibition contest against Rose-Hulman at Lantz Arena on Monday, Nov. 6.
"(The previous staff) had a lot done when I came in April, but I added Northwestern and North Texas," Bollant said. "I wanted to try and get another home game (against North Texas) and we got Northwestern as a guarantee game to help the budget. We have a good variety. I am excited about our team and the challenges that are ahead. I am just excited to build something great and excited to make it happen."
The Panthers scheduled five home games last season, too, but only three of those were against D-I opponents. In 2017-18, the Panthers open the regular season slate at home on Nov. 10 against MAC opponent Northern Illinois, which went 21-12 last season. Evansville, which beat EIU last season, completes a home-and-home series against the Panthers with a game at Lantz Arena on Nov. 18. Bradley comes to Lantz Arena on Dec. 5 and Valparaiso, which beat the Panthers last season, faces EIU at Lantz on Dec. 18. Bollant added a home game against North Texas on Dec. 20.
"I feel good about (the home games). That's always one of the challenges," Bollant said. "It's good competition and it's good for us. If we can do well in the non-conference, it will put us in good position in the (Ohio Valley Conference)."
The game against North Texas is just a one-year deal since the Mean Green will already be in the state since they travel to Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 18. So North Texas will make a quick trip south to face the Panthers.
"Thankfully they were coming up to play since they have a kid from Illinois," Bollant said. "It's a one-time game and no guarantee with it. They are a good team and it will be a good challenge for us."
EIU has road games at Wright State, Cleveland State, Fort Wayne and Northwestern along with the Saint Joseph's Classic on Nov. 25-26.
"I think we play a very tough non-conference schedule," Bollant said. "If we can fair well in that, then we will do well in the OVC."
The Northwestern game has another advantage to it besides bringing in money as a guaranteed game.
"We want to recruit the Midwest and Chicago and that's one of the reasons I added it was because of that," Bollant said. "Jalisha Smith is from Simeon High School, too. We are going to continue to want to play up there as well."
Bollant is as excited about the OVC slate as he is the non-conference schedule. EIU has home OVC games against Belmont, Tennessee State, UT Martin, Southeast Missouri State, Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, Murray State and SIU Edwardsville. All of the home OVC game are doubleheaders with the men's team.
"We are excited about the conference playing doubleheaders and people can come out and support both teams in the same day, which is awesome," Bollant said.