MORAGA, Calif. -- Saint Mary's women's tennis coach Lisa Alipaz has seen firsthand the benefits of testing her team early in the season.
This season won't be any different.
With the announcement of Saint Mary's 2013-14 schedule on Monday, Alipaz laid out yet another challenging slate of matches designed to prepare the Gaels for the always-tough West Coast Conference as they try to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
"Just like we have in recent seasons, we want to play a set of non-conference matches that prepares us for a tough West Coast Conference schedule," Alipaz said. "We're playing some of the best teams in the country in Stanford, Florida, USC and UCLA and we're hoping those experiences will pay off when conference begins."
Fall action begins on the final weekend of September when Saint Mary's heads through the Caldecott Tunnel to compete in the Cal Nike Invitational in Berkeley. The rest of the fall looks similar to last season for the full squad, with the Saint Mary's Fall Invitational taking place on Oct. 11-13 and the ITA Regionals at Stanford from Oct. 19-22.
The Gaels will also compete in the Moraga Country Club Pro-Am on Oct. 5, and defending West Coast Conference Player of the Year Jenny Jullien will head to Los Angeles to compete in the ITA All-American Championships beginning on Sept. 30.
Once the spring begins, Saint Mary's quest to defend its WCC Championship of a year ago won't start slowly. The always tough Cal Winter Invitational kicks things off on Jan. 17-19, followed by another trip to Los Angeles for the ITA National Indoor Championships.
Dual matches begin on Feb. 2 when the Gaels host Fresno State. Less than a week later, SMC heads back to the site of it's biggest win in 2013 as the Gaels face Stanford on Feb. 8. Saint Mary's went on the road to defeat Stanford 4-3 last season, and the Cardinal went on to win the NCAA championship with a victory over Texas A&M.
A trip to Washington to play San Diego State and Washington follows, then the Gaels head back to Stanford to face 2013 national semifinalist Florida on Feb. 22. One more trip to Los Angeles comes next, with a Feb. 27 match against preseason No. 1 singles player Sabrina Santamaria and USC. The next day, Saint Mary's goes across town to take on Robin Anderson, ranked No. 2 herself, and 2013 semifinalist UCLA.
Home matches against Texas Tech and Tulane on March 7 and 9 lead Saint Mary's into WCC action, which begins with a tough trip to San Diego and BYU. Portland and Gonzaga come to Moraga on March 28-29, followed by a visit by San Francisco on April 2. The Gaels visit new WCC member Pacific on on April 5, then stay in the Central Valley for an April 6 match at Sacramento State.
The final road trip of the WCC slate comes April 12-13 when SMC faces Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. The regular season concludes at home on April 18 against Santa Clara. The West Coast Conference Championships take place April 24-26 in San Diego.