By Collin Giuliani
On September 8, the High Point women’s basketball team officially released their Big South schedule. While the full details of the non-conference schedule were previously released over the summer, the release of the conference portion of the schedule now means that the full schedule for the 2017-18 season has been revealed.
Conference play will begin for the Panthers on January 2 with a home game against Gardner-Webb. This marks the fourth straight season that HPU will begin conference play at the Millis Center. HPU swept the season series against the Runnin’ Bulldogs last season, and have won six of the last eight meetings against Gardner-Webb dating back to the 2013-14 season.
HPU will play their first road game of the conference season on January 6 against UNC Asheville. The Bulldogs have won the Big South in each of the past two seasons, repeating as conference champions for the first time in school history, and becoming the first team to repeat since Liberty did so in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
While UNC Asheville enters this season as the defending champions, HPU has had the Bulldogs’ number, as the Panthers swept the season series last year. Additionally, HPU has won 11 straight matches against UNC Asheville, with the last loss by the Panthers in this series coming back on February 21, 2009.
In January, the Panthers will spend a significant portion of conference play on the road. During the first month of conference play, the Panthers will never play back-to-back home games, and have a stretch in the middle of January where they will play four out of five games on the road.
The lone home game in that stretch is a match on Saturday, January 20 against Longwood. HPU has won 12 straight games against Longwood, including a season sweep last year, and has won their last eight matches against the Lancers by double digits. The last time HPU lost to Longwood was on December 18, 2009, which was before Longwood even became a member of the Big South Conference.
On Family Weekend, the Panthers will take on the Campbell Camels on Saturday, February 3. Last year, Campbell led the entire NCAA in scoring defense, allowing a mere 49.6 points per game. In their 2 matches against Campbell last season, HPU scored a combined 86 points, and lost both games by double digits. In one of those games, the Panthers scored just 33 points, which was the fewest amount of points ever scored by HPU against a Big South opponent.
Towards the end of the season, the Panthers will play most of their games at the Millis Center. HPU has a stretch in the beginning of February where four out of five games, and five out of seven games will be held at the Millis Center. For the second straight year, HPU will close the home portion of their regular season schedule against Radford, with the home finale and Senior Night coming on Tuesday, February 27. Last season, Radford finished with the best record in the regular season, and became just the 16th school in conference history to win at least 24 games in a season.
Much like the men’s team, HPU concludes their season on the road at Lynchburg, Virginia, with a game against the Liberty Flames on March 3. On paper, the game will be a tough end to the season, as the Panthers have lost six out of their last seven games against the Flames. Additionally, HPU has lost their last four matches away from home against Liberty, including the 2015 Big South Championship.
In the Big South, each team plays each other twice, playing one game at home and one game on the road. In total, HPU will play 18 conference games this season, with nine of those coming at the Millis Center. In the 10-team Big South Conference, every team qualifies for the conference tournament. Every game in the conference tournament will be held at the Vines Center in Lynchburg, Virginia, and will be held between March 8-11. This is the second straight season that Liberty is hosting the Big South Tournament.
The championship game will take place on Sunday, March 11. Head coach DeUnna Hendrix, who signed a four-year contract extension through the 2020-21 season earlier in the offseason, will be looking to lead HPU to the Big South Championship for the sixth time in school history, and will be looking to win the Big South for the first time in school history.