Volleyball Releases 2010 Schedule
NASHVILLE, TENN. - - Marquee non-conference tournaments and a change to Atlantic Sun Conference regular season play highlight the 2010 Belmont Volleyball schedule, as released by head coach Deane Webb Thursday.
The Bruins - a model of consistency with 130 total victories over the past six seasons - begin quest of their third NCAA Tournament berth in the past five years, ironically at home for the first time since 2004.
Belmont welcomes Miami (OH), Jacksonville State, and Memphis to the Curb Event Center Aug. 27-28 for the third annual Belmont Invitational. The tradition-rich RedHawks boast eight NCAA Tournament appearances and are perennial powers in the Mid American Conference. Jacksonville State advanced to the second round of the 2009 NCAA Volleyball Championship and is the reigning Ohio Valley Conference champion, while Memphis returns all-Conference USA Freshman Team performer Altrese Hawkins.
The Bruins' first road match is Aug. 31 at Tennessee Tech - the first meeting with the Golden Eagles since 2007. Labor Day Weekend takes Belmont to the Silver State of Nevada as part of the Wolf Pack Invitational. Belmont opens the tournament with nationally-ranked Notre Dame, an Irish squad that went 14-0 in Big East regular season play last season. After facing host Nevada, the Bruins complete the trip against Weber State.
Following a non-conference match with in-state rival Chattanooga (Sept. 7), Belmont heads to Big Ten country to participate in the Active Ankle Challenge hosted by Purdue. The Boilermakers return 11 letterwinners and five starters from a team that defeated nationally-ranked Michigan State and Kansas State a year ago. Stalwarts Connecticut and Duquesne round out the field.
The first installment of the `Battle of the Boulevard' series for 2010 takes place Sept. 14 at the Curb Event Center as the Bruins face Lipscomb.
Three days later, Belmont plays in its fourth and final tournament of the non-conference season, travelling down I-24 for the Chattanooga Invitational. Former Atlantic Sun Conference foe and current Conference USA member UCF and James Madison of the Colonial Athletic Association are also scheduled to attend.
Belmont keeps the high level of competition coming Sept. 21 at Sun Belt Conference power Western Kentucky. The Bruins dropped a compelling five-set match to the Hilltoppers this past fall.
The Bruins' final non-conference match takes place Sept. 25 at home against Florida Gulf Coast. At first glance, this may appear to be a misprint, as the Eagles are members of the Atlantic Sun Conference. But with the league approving single round-robin play for regular season matches this year, Belmont's home matches against Lipscomb and Florida Gulf Coast in September will not count in conference standings.
"I am excited to see how we will stack up against teams from the Big Ten, Big East, and other major conferences," Webb said. "Our goal each year is to be challenged in our non-conference matches so that we are prepared for conference play. This schedule accomplishes that, and I am looking forward to our season beginning in August."
Conference play officially commences when Belmont hosts Kennesaw State Oct. 1. The Bruins rallied from two sets down to defeat the Owls this past season at a raucous Curb Event Center.
The final weekend of October will also be highly-anticipated, as Belmont entertains Jacksonville Oct. 29 and North Florida on Senior Day Oct. 30.
The final two matches of the regular season promise to carry enormous championship ramifications, as the Bruins play at Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 6) and at Lipscomb (Nov. 11).
Florida Gulf Coast and the Alico Arena in Ft. Myers, Fla. will play host to the 2010 Atlantic Sun Championship Nov. 18-20.
"Our conference has grown significantly stronger in the last year. We had the greatest conference RPI jump of any conference in the country, and I am interested to see just how high our conference can climb," Webb added. "Generally speaking, a conference needs to be one of the top 12 conferences in the country to receive two bids to the NCAA Tournament, and we're now just a few spots away from that important goal."
"The single round robin schedule means each conference match is that much more important, and it also means we get to see more teams out of our region. Both create good opportunities for our team to focus on the team in front of us on that day."
All told, the Bruins will play six matches against the top 76 in the final 2009 NCAA Volleyball Rating Percentage Index (RPI) and 11 matches against those in the Top 130.
Belmont returns 10 letterwinners from a year ago, including five seniors. Junior outside hitter Maggie Johnson was a 2009 First Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree, while senior libero Megan Clements and junior setter Channing Salava were named Second Team All-Atlantic Sun.
For the fourth consecutive season, Belmont is proud to provide live and on-demand video streaming for all home matches via the Atlantic Sun Conference's broadband channel, ASun.TV. Live stats will also be provided for all home matches.