HOUSTON -- Highlighted by 31 games and four host tournaments at Cougar Softball Stadium, the University of Houston Softball program and Head Coach Kristin Vesely announced the release of the 2018 schedule on Tuesday morning.
The 55-game slate features seven teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2017, including Women's College World Series participants Oregon and Texas A&M.
"We are excited for our 2018 season," Vesely said. "Even with a young team, we expect this group to come out and compete from the first game of the year, to the last game on our schedule. The 2018 schedule challenges us out of the gate opening up on the road but that's what I love about this team, they set the expectations to compete and win -- home or away isn't a factor."
Entering her second season at the helm, Vesely has Houston coming off a 30-25 campaign in 2017. The Cougars, who were 12-6 in American Athletic Conference play, finished second in The American for the regular season and added a runner-up finish at The American Championship. The two finishes are both the highest respective finishes for the program as a member of the league.
NOTES ON SCHEDULE
2 -- Head Coach Kristin Vesely enters her second year at the helm of the Cougars
4 -- Houston will host four home tournaments at Cougar Softball Stadium in 2018
4 -- The Cougars will face four opponents for the first time in 2018
5 -- Houston will play five games against 2017 Women's College World Series participants
6 -- Houston will play six teams who recorded 40 wins or more in 2017
11 -- The Cougars will play 11 games against Top 30 RPI teams from 2017
13 -- Houston will play 13 games against teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2017
31 -- The Cougars will play 31 games at Cougar Softball Stadium in 2018
55 -- Houston will play 55 regular-season games in 2017
Houston will play its first nine games on the road with its participation in Texas A&M's Aggie Classic (Feb. 9-11) in College Station, Texas, and the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge (Feb. 15-17) at Nancy Almaraz Stadium in Mexico. Other participants in the Aggie Classic include Boston College and Texas Tech, while the tournament field in Mexico features three NCAA Tournament teams from 2017 in Oregon (College Word Series), Ole Miss (Super Regional) and Texas (Regional), as well as Rutgers. Puerto Vallarta marks the program's first trip outside of the United States for competition.
"What an experience to open up on the road at Aggie Classic and play two games against an opponent who was in the World Series last year," Vesely said. "If we want to be a contender, it starts out in the first tournament and continues to Puerto Vallarta.
"In our first nine games on the road, we play three games against World Series opponents, one game against a Super Regional team and another against a Top 30 team from 2017. What an exciting and challenging way to show what we are becoming."
After nine games on the road, the Cougars will play their next 17 of their next 18 games in Houston. Fans will get their first change to see the team at Cougar Softball Stadium when the Cougars host Syracuse, UNLV, UTSA and Yale in the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational across Feb. 23-25.
The Cougars will open the month of March with the Houston Red & White Showcase across March 2-4, facing both A&M-Corpus Christi and Stephen F. Austin twice. Mississippi Valley State and Southern round out the tournament field but will not play Houston.
The Cougars will face Texas Southern on March 7 at Memorial Park before closing out tournament play with the Houston Hilton Plaza Classic (March 9-11) and Houston Round Robin (March 16-18). Participants for the Houston Hilton Plaza Classic include Iowa State, Lipscomb, Northwestern and Penn State, while the tournament field for the Houston Round Robin features Dartmouth and Eastern Kentucky.
"Fans will have a great amount of opportunities to see the team play at home this upcoming season," Vesely said. "We love playing at our complex and having the ability to play in front of our fans and our families. We will be hosting teams from Big 10, Big 12, Mountain West, Southland, Ivy League and Ohio Valley. We really tried hard to schedule some teams we haven't had an opportunity to play before."
In between the two tournaments, Houston will visit McNeese on March 13.
Adding to the non-conference slate, the Cougars will make two road trips to face Sam Houston State (doubleheader, March 20) and Lamar (doubleheader, April 11). Home non-conference games include Texas (April 3) and Baylor (doubleheader, April 24).
For a third straight year, all series in The American will be a three-game, three-day format. The Cougars will host UCF (March 29-31), Wichita State (April 13-15), Tulsa (April 20-22) and Memphis (May 4-6) in league play, while making visits to ECU (March 23-25), USF (April 6-8) and UConn (April 27-29).
"Our conference is going to be even more challenging with the addition of Wichita State," Vesely said. "There is an opportunity to be a five- or six-team race to be crowned champions. We have set our sights on that No. 1 spot and it helps that our schedule is tough early to get us prepared for our goal of pursuing championships in The American."
The 2018 American Athletic Conference Championship will be held at USF Softball Stadium on the campus of USF across May 10-12.
The Houston Athletics Ticket Office is once again proud to offer the Shasta Pass for the 2017-18 season. For just $80, Cougar fans can purchase one Shasta Pass, which allows season-long general admission entrance to all Houston Volleyball, Soccer, Women's Basketball and Softball home games.
The Shasta Pass offers Houston fans a substantial saving as single-game tickets start at $5 for all four sports. To purchase a Shasta Pass, call 713-GO-COOGS or CLICK HERE.
JOIN DIAMOND CLUB
Fans can help support the Houston Softball program by joining the Diamond Club. To find out more information about the Diamond Club, visit UHCougars.com or call Cougar Pride at (713) 743-GoUH. For more information, CLICK HERE.