COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech volleyball team
will play 16 of its first 19 matches on the road, wraps up the
regular season with four matches at home, and veteran coach John
Blair thinks the combination and competition will be a challenging
and exciting test for his Golden Eagle squad in 2010.
He announced the team's 29-match schedule this week with an eye toward building a squad that can challenge for the Ohio Valley Conference championship. Beginning with 10 non-conference matches and ending with 18 consecutive OVC contests, Blair is confident that the turns his team will take can prove to be an effective, albeit challenging route to success in the 2010 season.
The team will spend the majority of the first two months on the road, opening the year with the Clemson Invitational in Clemson. S.C., Aug. 27-28. The Golden Eagles will take on three strong non-conference opponents in Clemson, Albany and Jacksonville.
“We’ve tried to create a challenging pre-conference schedule and I think we’ve accomplished that,” said Blair. “My goal for the schedule is always to try to create a little bit of balance, leaning toward a more challenging schedule for us.”
The Golden Eagles will follow up with the Samford Invitational Sept. 3-4 in Birmingham, Ala., where they will face Syracuse, North Texas, Northwestern State and host Samford. Tech will also attend the Western Kentucky Invitational to compete against WKU, Central Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia Tech, Sept. 10-11, and will travel for its first two conference match-ups against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State.
“We try to avoid tournaments where we don’t know the quality of the programs [participating,]” Blair said. “All of the teams that we’ll be playing are well-coached, well-supported, fully funded and, like us, they expect to win every match.”
The only home competition for the Golden Eagles in the first three weeks will be against Belmont on Sept. 7 in Eblen Center.
“You get into a rhythm by being on the road, there’s a benefit to it,” Blair admitted. “Even the team will admit that when we’re at home for long stretches they get anxious to get on the road.”
Some of their toughest competition will come early in the season in facing Clemson, a 2009 NCAA Championship participant. However, this factor is one that Blair believes will be hugely beneficial for the team during conference play.
In addition to Clemson, post-season calibre opponents in the early going include Missouri and Western Kentucky.
“All of these early matches will prepare us for another difficult Ohio Valley Conference schedule,” Blair explained. “There is so much balance in our conference, if you’re not ready to play every match you’re going to get beat. It really does us a disservice to not play the best competition out of conference."
Some of the biggest in-conference challenges will come early with matches against rivals Morehead State, a strong contender for the pre-season number one spot, and Eastern Kentucky University
“Of course, the coveted prize is the tournament championship,” Blair said. “We want to play our best volleyball at the end of the season, so we’re preapred to take a few lumps in the beginning.”
The eight returning players and five new signees will report to campus Aug. 9 and begin practicing on Aug. 10. This will allow for approximately two weeks of training camp before they travel to Clemson.