Volleyball announces 2012 schedule
Slate features six NCAA Tournament teams from a year agoMay 21, 2012 · Athletic Communications
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - After six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, the quest for a seventh won't get any easier as the the 2012 Middle Tennessee volleyball schedule will feature seven matches against tournament teams from last season.
"Once again we have a very demanding schedule," head coach Matt Peck said. "We're going to be taking on a number of NCAA Tournament teams, and we're going to be challenged early. We'll have a very young team, so I think it's going to just make us that much better as the season goes on."
The schedule is a first of sorts for the volleyball program, as it includes 33 regular season matches, the most since 1996.
"We're going to play more mid-week matches year," Peck explained. "We're also playing more schools within driving distance, and it's going to help us avoid long stretches without playing, which is especially important with how many new people we'll have."
MT will look to come out strong, hosting Furman, UAB, UTSA and UC Davis the first weekend of the year in the seventh annual Blue Raider Bash at Alumni Memorial Gym. The four schools combined for a 87-39 mark last season.
"We're hoping to get started strong early," Peck said. "Playing teams of that caliber early will help us with some of the early question marks and identify who our primary players will be. Our competition is only going to get stronger from there on out."
The 16 schools that comprise the 2012 non-conference slate boast of a combined 301-175 record with 11 surpassing the 20-win plateau.
The Blue Raiders will also play a doubleheader both days of the tournament, the first of five such dates for the season.
"We're looking to have a very deep team," Peck said. "This will be our deepest team at every position since I've been here, and we want everyone to get as much on-court experience as possible in order to better prepare for conference season."
MT will then hit the road for seven straight matches over the ensuing two weeks.
The Blue Raiders will start by taking on Harvard, Towson and host Virginia Tech at the Hokie Invitational before making the trek from Blacksburg to Richmond to take on VCU on Labor Day.
The Blue and White will return to Murfreesboro for a few days before setting out east again, this time to Chapel Hill, N.C., for the Carolina Volleyball Classic, featuring the host Tar Heels, NCAA Tournament participant Western Michigan and SEC power LSU. The three schools each topped 20 wins ago, combining for a 73-23 mark.
After a mid-week encounter with Austin Peay at AMG, MT will close out the heart of the non-conference schedule at the Louisville Invitational, hosted by frequent NCAA Tournament adversary Louisville. Miami (Fla.) and UNLV will make up the rest of the field. The Cardinals and Hurricanes both advanced to the Second Round in last season's NCAA Tournament.
"We felt that we needed to play a lot on the road early with such a young team," Peck said. "We think it will help our team continue to improve, but it also means that we can bring teams like North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia Tech to Murfreesboro down the line."
The Blue Raiders will certainly have an interesting start to conference season on Sept. 20, as they will play host to former MT assistant coach Amy Hendrichovsky and her South Alabama team.
"We obviously expect USA to be a much improved team, which only makes our division even stronger," Peck said. "There are a number of new coaches around the league and new financial commitments to volleyball, so the league is going to continue to get stronger."
Following a pair of tilts against Troy and at Louisiana, MT will face off against arch-rival WKU at AMG on Oct. 2.
"A lot of our players obviously have their minds on WKU, but it's important to take things one at a time," Peck said. "If we take care of business in the matches leading up to it, we could have the opportunity to take control in the conference early."
Following the WKU match, MT will travel to ULM and North Texas before taking a brief detour from SBC play at Austin Peay in Clarksville.
The Blue Raiders will welcome in both Florida Atlantic and FIU on the following weekend before hitting the road to take on UAB again, but this time in Birmingham.
The MT home slate will conclude on Oct. 19 and 20 with UALR and Arkansas State before hitting the road for five consecutive away dates, beginning with the annual south Florida trip and concluding with the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green on Nov. 10.
Five days after the end of the conference season, the Blue Raiders will look to return to WKU, this time for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
"We've had a very good record in Bowling Green over the past few years," Peck said. "We won the conference tournament up there in 2009, and hopefully we'll be able to play well up there again. We also love that fact that we can play close to our fans after going to Miami last year."
Once again, MT will play a Thanksgiving weekend match prior to the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Raiders will take the short jaunt up the road to Nashville to take on Lipscomb, an NCAA Tournament participant in four of the last five seasons.
"Lipscomb is a yearly tournament team," Peck said. "We know they've been strong and they know how good we've been, so we're looking forward to it. Depending on how our seasons shake out, it could also have tournament implications in addition to bragging rights."
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
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