Volleyball Schedule is Set
Happy Hump Day! Jeff with you for a mid-week article this week thanks to Volleyball's schedule release. None of the dates have any times set, so it's not quite ready for setting specific plans, but it's a start, and at this point, well ahead of the start of the season, we're mostly looking at overall strength of schedule. And there's some good competition set up in this one, so let's not waste any time diving in to take a look.
First, the traditional Red & Black scrimmage is set for Saturday, August 19th. This is typically a free event, and with increased demand over the past couple of years to see Volleyball, you might want to arrive early. Typically, this has been a 6pm start.
The season opening weekend has Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They're all at the L&N Federal Credit Union home and bring games, against Troy, Washington State, and Wright State. Both of the W's are decent competition. WSU went 23-10 overall, 14-6 in the Pac-12, with some pretty decent wins in the mix, including PAC-12 wins over Oregon, Colorado, USC, and Washington. Wright State went 28-4 overall, but good out-of-conference wins were a bit scarce. A couple of wins over Dayton and one over Wichita State is about the best you can find, but they did cruise, large and in-charge, through the Horizon league, going undefeated in the regular season and winning the tournament before running into what we know is a very good Georgia Tech team in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
Weekend two is in Columbia, MO, with matches against Northern Kentucky, South Dakota, and host Missouri. Don't expect intense competition from NKU, or SD, but Missouri needs to be taken a bit seriously. The Cards should come away with three wins this weekend, quite potentially all sweeps.
Next up is what has become a tradition, a bit of a gauntlet immediately before the start of the conference slate. Start it off with Dayton on Wednesday September 6th, probably the least competitive of this gauntlet, but still solid competition, particularly on their home (un-airconditioned) floor. Back home, at LNFCU, the Cards host a not-quite-as-dominant-as-they-used-to-be Penn State, but hey, that still leaves a lot of room for the Nittany Lions to be quite good, 26-8, 13-7 good, last year. Next up is a pair of matches at the KFC Yum! Center downtown, starting with Kentucky on Wednesday, September 13th, so expect that one to be a five set affair, because that always seems to be the case when UK and UofL play. After that, Stanford returns the favor of UofL's visit to Maples Pavilion last year. Also at the KFC Yum! Center, on Sunday, September 17th.
Then, starting September 22nd, we dive into conference play. The first weekend is Syracuse and Boston College at home. We get the mid-week matchup with travel partner Notre Dame early this year, Wednesday, September 27th.
The team will take Friday off, but will head down to NC State to start the month of October on Sunday the 1st. I suspect the team will come home for the week, but will head back to the area the next weekend, going to play UNC and Duke on the 6th and the 8th.
Expect Pitt to be the top of the conference competition again in the fall, and we'll see them first in the KFC Yum! Center on the 13th. UVA will also be in town that weekend, for the Sunday matchup at LNFCU (at the time of this writing gocards.com has this listed at KFC Yum! Center, but I don't believe that is the case).
Another road trip, to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech on October 20th and 22nd before the Florida contingent comes calling at LNFCU on October 27th and 29th.
Let's hope we don't have another "Lotion-gate" match at O'Keefe Gym at Georgia Tech on November 3rd, although that did work out well for us at the end of the 3+ hours. The squad will visit our friends in Clemson on the 5th, and the last regular weekend of the season sees Duke and UNC come to town on November 10th and 12th.
Finish off the season with a bang with a visit to Pitt on the Saturday the 18th and Thanksgiving Eve we welcome the return visit from Michelle Collier, but not Julia Bergmann who has graduated, with Georgia Tech at LNFCU.
Overall, my impression of this schedule is that it is slightly less intense than last year. We don't have matches against the likes of Western Kentucky, Ohio State, Purdue, and San Diego. Add in the visit from Penn State, Washington State, and Dayton to balance a little bit of that and it's still a solid schedule that should prepare the Cards for post-season play quite well. The gauntlet before beginning conference play will be a lot of fun as it has been the past couple of years.
What will be the goal for the team this year? A return to the Final Four is probably an attainable goal. I like to talk about year over year improvement, but there's not much room for that improvement with this squad, having taken only three losses in the whole season last year, and the last of those being in the National Championship match.
The Volleyball Final Four this year is at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL, which should result in better weather than the frigid cold we experienced in Omaha, NE last year. Tickets go on sale in August.
Season tickets for Volleyball matches at LNFCU are on an expected to be multi-year waiting list at this point, but tickets are definitely available for the three matches, Kentucky, Stanford, and Pitt, at the KFC Yum! Center.