A good mix.
That term paints a good picture of the 2016 Eastern Mennonite University field hockey schedule. Entering her second season at the helm of the program, Coach E.A. Jackson built a good mix of games, describing not only location but also level of competition.
The year starts at home, with York College (Pa.) visiting Harrisonburg on Sept. 3 and Ferrum coming in the next day. After that home-opening set, however, the Royals will play on the road for most of September before hosting five of eight over the final month of the season.
Jackson expects the schedule to be a good test for her team, which is a good mix in its own right of returners and new recruits.
"This year we have blended the perfect mix of nationally ranked competition with new away trips that will provide opportunities for our young team to bond and really get to know each other," she explained. "We've also left nationally ranked Mary Washington on our schedule so we can gauge our growth this year as a team."
The eight-game ODAC slate starts at Shenandoah on Sept. 28. The women host four conference opponents, all in October, including 2015 champion Bridgewater as well as traditional power Lynchburg to end the regular season on Oct. 29. Virginia Wesleyan (homecoming) and Randolph-Macon also visit. EMU has road dates at Roanoke, Sweet Briar and Washington and Lee.
Outside of the road game at Mary Washington, the Royals' other non-conference contests away from Harrisonburg bring them to new territories, which should be good news for the EMU fan base.
The women get two new opponents on the season's second weekend, playing both Wilson and Bryn Mawr in Chambersburg, Pa., on Sept. 9 and 10, respectively. Jackson also plans a Sept. 16 trip to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, just east of Columbus, and hopes to add a second contest to the weekend. That should ready the team for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference slate.
"We are excited to add Denison to our schedule this year," Jackson said. "We've not traveled to that part of the country in a few years and this road trip will allow us to test our young team against a historically powerful and physical program a week before taking on ODAC programs."
New home opponents for 2016 are Notre Dame of Maryland and Transylvania University.
The Royals finished 3-14 (0-7 ODAC) last fall in Jackson's first season, but expect to quickly move back up the standings with a resurgent roster.