NEW ROCHELLE, NY - While the local temperatures may be below freezing, things are just heating up for the Iona College softball team as the Gaels have begun practice and preparation in hopes of capturing their fourth consecutive MAAC Championship. The Gaels, under the direction of first year head coach Melissa Inouye, begin play in the coming weeks on what appears to be a tough slate.
The season's opponents include five squads (Lehigh, Notre Dame, North Carolina, North Dakota State, San Diego State) that appeared in the NCAA Regional a season ago and a Super Regional participant in Hofstra.
Iona opens the season at the UNC Wilmington Beach Blast the weekend of Feb. 8, beginning with a 9:00 am start on Friday against Detroit before an 11:30 am matchup with Nebraska Omaha. The Gaels take on Nebraska Omaha Saturday morning at 2:00 pm before a 2:00 pm contest with the host Seahawks. A rematch with UNC Wilmington wraps up the weekend Sunday at 11:30 am.
Next up for the Gaels will be the Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill. Iona begins play on Friday, Feb. 22 with a 12:30 pm matchup with George Washington. Iona will then take on the host Tar Heels Friday evening at 5:30 pm before a Saturday afternoon contest with North Dakota State at 5:00 pm. The weekend concludes with a 10:00 am meeting with Iowa State.
The Gaels then travel to the Towson University Tournament in Maryland. The weekend begins with a Friday, Mar. 1 matchup with Columbia at 10:30 am. On Saturday, the team plays a pair of games, beginning with Lehigh at 10:30 am before ending the day with a matchup with the host Tigers at 12:45 pm. The Gaels wrap up the weekend Sunday, beginning with a 10:30 am game with Lehigh and concluding with a 12:45 pm first pitch against Columbia.
The team's annual spring break trip takes them to California this season. On Mar. 12, the Gaels take on San Diego at 8:00 pm EST before a matchup with San Diego State follows at 10:00 pm. The team then takes on Southern Utah on Mar. 13 at 5:00 pm in San Diego.
The team then travels up the coast for a series of games at the UC Riverside Tournament, beginning with a matchup with Notre Dame Mar. 15 at 2:15 pm. Iona will then take on UC Riverside that evening at 7:00 pm. A rematch with the Fighting Irish looms at 12:00 pm on Saturday before Iona tangles with Northern Illinois at 5:00 pm. The trip concludes Sunday with a 12:00 pm contest with UC Riverside.
Once back on the east coast, Iona hosts its home opener on Wednesday, Mar. 20 when it welcomes Temple to Rice Oval for a doubleheader, with game one beginning at 2:30 pm.
The Gaels will play the next three on the road, beginning with a 2:30 pm doubleheader on Thursday, Mar. 21 at Sacred Heart before a single game on Tuesday, March 26 at 3:30 pm. Iona hosts Fordham on Wednesday, Mar. 26 before hosting Fairfield in its MAAC opener on Saturday, Mar. 30. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for 12:00 pm.
Iona next heads to Hartford for a non-conference doublheader on Wednesday, Apr. 3 at 2:30 pm before traveling to Siena for MAAC play on Saturday, Apr. 7 at 1:00 pm. The Gaels host Manhattan the following day, beginning at 12:00 pm.
The Gaels will then embark on an 11 game road swing, facing both conference and non-conference foes along the way. On Saturday, Apr. 13 Iona travels to St. John's for a single game beginning at 12:00 pm. The following day, Iona takes on Rider in a MAAC doubleheader beginning at 1:00 pm.
On Tuesday, Apr. 16, Iona heads to West Point, NY for a midweek doubleheader with Army, beginning at 3:30 pm, before moving on to Rutgers for a matchup on Apr. 18 at 3:30 pm.
Iona resumes conference play on Saturday, Apr. 20 when they take on Marist beginning at 12:00 pm. The Gaels then make a return trip to Fordham on Tuesday, Apr. 23 before taking on Fairleigh Dickinson in a doubleheader on Wednesday, Apr. 24 beginning at 3:30 pm.
The Gaels return to the friendly confines of New Rochelle for weekend matchups with their Western New York conference counterparts. Beginning at 12:00 pm on Saturday, Apr. 27, Iona takes on Canisius before taking on Niagara the following day. First pitch against the Purple Eagles is scheduled for 12:00 pm.
Iona wraps up its regular season on the road, beginning with a midweek matchup at Stony Brook on Thursday, May 2 atarting at 4:00 pm. The team's final MAAC doubleheader takes place Saturday, May 4 when the Gaels take on Saint Peter's beginning at 12:00 pm.