COOKEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagle volleyball team looks to climb back up the ladder in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2012, but coach John Blair's squad will need to navigate a new schedule featuring divisional play in the league.
“I think our schedule is a little more balanced this season in terms of the quality of opponents we’re facing,” Blair said. “We will be challenged early in the season with the tournaments and that will carry over into the conference schedule.”
Tech will take part in 28 matches this season, eight of which will take place on Tech's home court in Eblen Center. The Golden Eagles begin their season with three matches each in four tournaments.
“We are potentially going to face five or six teams that could win their conferences by the end of the season,” Blair said. “It will be a good balance of teams and we should see some success if we take care of business on our end.”
TTU opens the season at the UT Chattanooga Invitational (Aug. 24-25) and will square off with USC Upstate, Alcorn State and Chattanooga, before heading to Xavier (Aug. 31 – Sept. 1) to take on the Musketeers, Marquette and Ole Miss.
“The tournament at Xavier will feature some more recognizable programs, but we should be able to go up there and compete with them,” Blair said.
The Golden Eagles will then take on Western Kentucky, IUPUI and Dayton in the Western Kentucky Invitational (Sept. 7-8), before wrapping up their non-conference play at the Samford Invitational (Sept. 14-15) as they take on Samford, Gardner-Webb and Alcorn State.
Tech begins conference play on the road as it takes on Murray State (Sept. 21) and Austin Peay (Sept. 22), before opening its home schedule against Jacksonville State (Sept. 25).
Along with the beginning of the new season, 2012 will also feature a new setup for volleyball in the OVC. With Belmont and SIU Edwardsville fully eligible for postseason play, the OVC will now have its 12 teams split into two divisions.
“With the new divisions, you’ve got to be ready to come and play,” Blair said. “With just 16 games you have less time to make up ground and you get to face half the teams just one time each.”
Tech will be in the OVC's East Division and will be joined by Belmont, Eastern Kentucky, defending champion Morehead State, Jacksonville State and Tennessee State. TTU will take on each team in the East Division twice, once at home and once on the road.
The West Division will feature Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, Murray State, Southeast Missouri, SIU Edwardsville and UT Martin. The Golden Eagles will face each team in the west one time, with SIUE, EIU and UTM coming to Eblen Center.
(The OVC will also feature divisional play in men’s and women’s basketball and softball beginning this year).
Along with the expanded field of teams, the OVC playoffs will also grow from six to eight teams. The top eight teams that make the tournament will be seeded according to OVC winning percentage, regardless of division. The bracket format will be announced at a later date.
Tech will host eight matches during the season, all of which come in OVC play. Along with its home opener against Jacksonville State, the Golden Eagles will host UT Martin (Sept. 29), Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 12), Morehead State (Oct. 13), Belmont (Oct. 19), Tennessee State (Oct. 20), SIUE (Nov. 2) and Eastern Illinois (Nov. 3).
Dates and starting times are listed in CST and are subject to change