FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – One thing is for certain, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team will see their fair share of national postseason participants throughout their 2016-17 schedule released on Thursday. Starting with their season opener at UTEP on Nov. 11, the Lumberjacks will face a total of nine teams whose seasons extended into late spring last season.
The Lumberjacks open their 29-game slate at UTEP when they make their fourth consecutive trip to El Paso, Texas. The Miners are coming off a 29-5 season that included winning the Conference USA regular season title and advancing to the WNIT quarterfinals a season ago. Last year, NAU fell to UTEP, 77-66.
NAU's home opener will be two days later on Nov. 13 against the University of Antelope Valley. The game will be one of five non-conference home contests for the Lumberjacks with the last four coming in succession. Youngstown State (Nov. 28), CSUN (Dec. 1), Denver (Dec. 3) and New Mexico State (Dec. 11) round out NAU's home schedule before Big Sky play.
The Lumberjacks will play a total of six non-conference games away from Flagstaff. Following NAU's home opener, the Lumberjacks will play at Cal Poly (Nov. 18), UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 20) and Lamar (Nov. 23) before their four-game homestand. NAU will then wrap up non-conference play at Grand Canyon (Dec. 19) and Utah (Dec. 21) before tackling the Big Sky schedule.
UTEP, New Mexico State and Youngstown State all won at least 21 games a year ago among NAU's pre-conference foes. New Mexico State won the WAC championship and qualified for the NCAA Tournament, while UTEP and Utah both made deep runs in the WNIT. Youngstown State and Grand Canyon were also WBI participants.
The Big Sky schedule for the 'Jacks opens up on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31 at Southern Utah before NAU hosts North Dakota and Northern Colorado on Jan. 5 and 7 respectively. Senior Night for the Lumberjacks' five seniors – Rene Coggins, Bradlee Cotton, Taylor Leyva, Brittani Lusain and Catelyn Preston – is slated for Feb. 25 against Portland State. The regular season wraps up for NAU on the road at Idaho and Eastern Washington on March 1 and 3 respectively leading into the conference tournament which will once again be held in Reno, Nev. from March 6-11.
Four Big Sky teams – Idaho (NCAA), Montana State (WNIT) and North Dakota and Weber State (WBI) – participated in national postseason tournaments last season to bring NAU's total of postseason opponents to nine this season.
NAU's five seniors will lead a roster that is bringing back eight letterwinners. The 'Jacks finished the 2015-16 season with a 6-24 overall record and a 2-16 mark in Big Sky play.
This season's home game times will be announced at a later date.