Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Early Schedule Prepares SIUE for Tourney

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Early Schedule Prepares SIUE for Tourney

Article excerpt

Friday

G1: USC Upstate vs. South Alabama, 3:30 p.m.

G2:SIUE vs. Alabama, 6 p.m. (ESPN3)

Saturday

G3: Winners, Game 1 vs. Game 2, 1 p.m.

G4: Losers, Game 1 vs. Game 2, 3:30 p.m.

G5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser

Sunday

G6: Winners, Game 3 vs. Game 5, 1 p.m.

G7: Game 6 teams, if necessary, 3:30 p.m.

The opening weeks of the college softball season for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville would have been enough to break the confidence of many teams.

Coach Sandy Montgomery knew that when she entered the Cougars in tournaments at LSU and Arizona State. And what her team experienced was a predictable beat down.

"We knew we had a pretty good squad and if you get them through that thumping early, it's going to make them tougher," Montgomery said. "There is certainly a risk, but you know you have teams that can play that schedule and teams that can't play that schedule."

In a nine-day span, SIUE lost to No. 23 LSU, No. 14 Minnesota, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 8 Washington. There were two other games against teams from the major conferences.

The Cougars started 1-9.

But Montgomery ultimately got the result all coaches hope for when they build such a schedule. SIUE won 29 of its next 41 games, earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament with the school's first Division I conference championship and will face No. 5 Alabama on Friday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"We're a program that's expected to win, it's no secret," Montgomery said. "There's always that pressure they're aware of, and it's always in the back of their minds. That feeds into the focus and their determination. They wanted to be the first (SIUE) team to win a conference championship."

In her 26th season at SIUE, Montgomery boasts a career record of 914-462-2, including 30-21 this season. The Cougars won a national championship in 2007 in Division II, and Montgomery has been building a competitive D-I team in recent years. …

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