BOISE, Idaho-Boise State softball Head Coach Erin Thorpe released the Broncos' schedule for the 2011 season, Tuesday. Boise State will play 14 home games at Mountain Cove Softball Field, including hosting the Boise State SpringHIll Suites Invitational, March 4-6, to kick off the home slate.
The 2011 schedule features 12 games against eight opponents fresh off appearances in the 2010 NCAA Softball Championship. Six of the eight advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals, with three of them ending their seasons in Oklahoma City at the Women's College World Series. The high level of competition is part of Thorpe's plan for building a winning program.
"In our third year we've taken another step forward in our schedule," said Thorpe. "Our goal is to be a team that is competing in the postseason year in and year out. It takes us improving our strength of schedule to be recognized on that level."
The Broncos open the program's third season Friday, Feb. 12, against Loyola Marymount at the Long Beach State Kickoff Tournament. It is the first of six early-season tournaments featuring Boise State.
"The tournament format is exciting to a lot of teams because you get a lot of different looks early in the season," Thorpe said. "You really get to find out a lot about your team by seeing different opposition nearly every game."
Boise State continues on the tournament circuit with stops at the Louisville Slugger Classic hosted by UNLV (Feb. 18-20) and the UC Riverside Tournament in Riverside, Calif. (Feb. 25-27) before hosting its own tournament.
"It's great to open up our home schedule every year with the SpringHIll Invitational," Thorpe said. "It gives our fans an opportunity to see an entire weekend of softball action."
Southern Utah and Seattle will join the Broncos at Mountain Cove Softball Field. The tournament begins Friday, March 4, with a double-header between Boise State and Southern Utah, marking the earliest home opener for the Broncos.
Boise State heads back on the road for the final two tournaments. The first stop is at the Santa Clara Bronco Classic (March 11-13), followed by the Judi Garman Classic hosted by Cal State Fullerton (March 19-20).
The Broncos will face 2010 championship participants in Las Vegas (BYU, Tennessee and Oregon), Santa Clara, Calif., (UC Davis) and Fullerton, Calif., (Arizona State and Washington). Washington and Tennessee advanced to the WCWS.
The other two opponents with postseason berths a year ago will come during Boise State's Western Athletic Conference schedule. Fresno State and defending champion Hawai'i each advanced to the 64-team championship. The Rainbow Wahine moved all the way to the WCWS, winning their first-round game at the final site.
"I'm hoping we can grow from and build on our success in conference play last season," Thorpe said of the Broncos' third-place finish a year ago. "We want to be able to carry that momentum into the nonconference schedule, and just keep it rolling all year. We won't be able to sneak up on some of the teams in conference like maybe we did last year. So we will have to be ready to play every time we step on the field. I think we have a schedule that will force us to do that, and that's great."
The Broncos travel to Hawai'i this season, April 22-23, and host the Bulldogs. The series against Fresno State, April 29-30, will be the final chance for Boise State fans to catch a regular season game at Mountain Cove Softball field. Boise State begins the WAC season March 25-26, hosting Nevada.