Although the defending Region II Champion Northeastern A&M Lady Norse have only four home basketball games in the first 14, head coach Jim Rowland expects his squad to mature before starting divisional play.

“We're starting the season with eight new players,” Rowland said. “So, even though our schedule is rally stressful the first two months, I feel like we're ready to tackle that challenge.”

Under Rowland's direction last season the Lady Norse finished 7th in the NJCAA National Tournament with a 25-8 overall record. NEO suffered a 58-47 loss to Copiah-Lincoln, Miss., in a third round elimination game.

After winning the Eastern Division of the Bi-State Athletic Conference with a 6-2 record, the Lady Norse defeated Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa 71-66 to capture the Region II Tournament title.

“With as many freshmen that we have, we use the first half of the schedule as a training period,” Rowland said. “We want them to understand that this is a different level and that the speed of the game has changed.”

“There are no easy games in the non-conference portion of our schedule,” Rowland said. “We open with Coffeyville at home, but then we play in back-to-back classics at Garden City and Barton County.

After opening with Coffeyville and trips to Garden City and Barton County, the Lady Norse return to the temporary home court, the Student Activities Center, to host Seminole State on Nov. 19.

“We don't talk a whole lot about what we did last year,” Rowland said. “We purposely made the first half of the season tough so our young freshmen will learn what it takes to compete in the Bi-State East.”

After three months of non-divisional games, the Lady Norse open the Bi-State East title defense on Jan. 28 by hosting Carl Albert State College.