Coming off a record-setting season in 2013, the University of Kentucky softball team announced a challenging 2014 schedule Friday built to help the program make more history.
"Last year, we made our schedule very challenging for our young team because we wanted them to see the high level you have to play at to be successful at this level, and they responded to that," said Coach Rachel Lawson, who returns for her seventh season at UK. "This schedule is just as challenging, and we expect them to approach it with the same amount of intensity if not more."
UK (41-21) posted a school record for victories last season before bowing out in the NCAA Tournament's Super Regional round — a step short of the College World Series.
In 2014, Kentucky will play 21 games against teams that ended the 2013 season either ranked or receiving votes in the major polls, including a single game against College World Series Champion Oklahoma and a three-game set against national runner-up Tennessee.
Other 2013 ranked teams UK will face this spring are Texas, Michigan, Missouri, Texas A&M, Louisville and Georgia, as well as Arkansas and Western Kentucky, who received votes.
Kentucky will play 33 non-conference games in addition to a 24-game Southeastern Conference schedule.
The Wildcats open their season at the Mizuno Invitational in Southern California on Feb. 6. Kentucky will play five games in the three-day tournament, taking on Santa Clara, Long Beach State and George Washington in Long Beach, Calif., and Loyola Marymount and Oklahoma in Fullerton, Calif.
Kentucky's 2014 schedule includes two tournaments at its recently renovated John Cropp Stadium.
The first includes UK's home opener Feb. 28 against Eastern Kentucky. UK hosts its second tournament March 21-23.
The Wildcats begin SEC play with a three-game series at Mississippi State from March 7-9.
Kentucky plays its annual home-and-home series against Louisville on April 2 in Lexington and April 30 in Louisville.
The SEC Tournament is set for May 7-10 in Columbia, S.C.
2014 UK softball schedule
All times p.m. and Eastern unless noted; Home games in capital letters
Mizuno Invitational: 6—Santa Clara, Noon; Long Beach State, 2:30 (at Long Beach, Calif.); 7—Loyola Marymount, 1:30; Oklahoma, 6:30 (at Fullerton, Calif.); 8—George Washington, Noon (at Long Beach, Calif.)
Texas Tournament at Austin, Texas: 14—Louisiana Tech, 11 a.m.; Texas, 5; 15—Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, 11 a.m.; vs. TBA, 5 or 7:30; 16—vs. TBA, 10:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.
FAU Invitational at Boca Raton, Fla.: 21—Penn State, 4; Florida Atlantic, 6; 22—Kent State, 9 a.m.; Michigan, 11 a.m.; 23—Penn State, 9 a.m.
UK Tournament: 28—EASTERN KENTUCKY, 3; BUTLER, 5; March 1—PITTSBURGH, 1; VS. TBA, 3 or 5; March 2—VS. TBA, 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.
7-9—at Mississippi State, 7, 4, 2; 11—at Marshall, 4; 14-16—at Missouri, TBA, TBA, TBA; 18—at Indiana, 5
Kentucky Tournament: 21—KENT STATE, 2; ST. FRANCIS (PA.), 6; 22—FAIRFIELD, 2; KANSAS, 6; 23—KENT STATE, Noon; KANSAS, 2
28-30—AUBURN, 6, 3, 1.
2—LOUISVILLE, 6; 4-6—TEXAS A&M, 6, 3, 1; 8—WRIGHT STATE, 5; 9—MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE, 5; 11-13—at Mississippi, 7, 3, 2; 18-20—ARKANSAS, 6, 3, 1; 22—at Western Kentucky, 7; 25-27—TENNESSEE, 6, 3, 1; 30—at Louisville, 6.
2-4—at Georgia, TBA, TBA, TBA.