By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With the calendar now into the summer months, the focus will soon shift to the impending fall athletics season, when Jeannette Waldo's Tennessee Tech volleyball program will enter its second campaign.
On Wednesday, the schedule for the upcoming season – the 45th in Tech Athletics history – was officially announced, evoking an increased sense of anticipation in the Hooper Eblen Center.
Following an encouraging spring exhibition segment, Waldo, her assistant coaches Zach Weinberg and Tierney Flaherty, and the 2019 crop of Golden Eagles are excited by the potential found in a new blank slate.
"Spring was a great time in our gym," Waldo said. "We got stronger, more confident, had some laughs and made great strides. Everyone that is up against us in the fall will see an entirely different team. We are adding a lot of new bodies, which brings us a lot of potential excitement, and our returners are back with a vengeance."
Just as the Golden Eagles will have a new look on the court, their schedule will feature several new opponents in the nonconference ahead of their familiar Ohio Valley Conference ledger.
Overall, the schedule will be a strong one – especially in the nonconference – but Waldo believes it will present an excellent opportunity to see how her club measures up.
"Our upcoming schedule will be challenging – there is no doubt about that," she said. "We will be tested early, which is why we scheduled the way we did. We need to see what our new players are made of before conference play begins and see how all of our pieces need to gel together."
Following the annual Purple and Gold Scrimmage at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23, and an exhibition date at Lipscomb on Aug. 24, TTU will open the 2019 regular season in The Great Lakes State, where they will partake in a tournament held jointly by Michigan and Oakland.
All three of Tech's matches will be played in Michigan's Cliff Keen Arena, where the Golden Eagles will face off with Northern Arizona on Friday afternoon, Aug. 30, then Oakland later that day, before wrapping up with a meeting with the host Wolverines on Saturday afternoon.
September begins with The Fleur de Lis Tournament at Louisville, where the purple and gold will throw down with the host Cardinals, along with Arizona State on Friday, Sept. 6. The third and final match of that get-together will be the following day against Western Kentucky.
While those first six opponents will all be new for 2019, Tech will then reacquaint itself with two familiar adversaries from last year, taking on Chattanooga and North Alabama at the Chattanooga Classic on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13-14.
Tech's first foe in Chattanooga will be Manhattan on Friday afternoon, followed by the homestanding Mocs later that evening. The North Alabama matchup will conclude the tournament's festivities on Saturday afternoon. Tech fared well against both UTC and UNA in 2018, scoring a 2-0 record.
The final weekend of tournament play will be spent right at home in Cookeville on Sept. 20-21, as the Golden Eagles will host their own shindig for the second straight year. Western Illinois, another team Tech beat a season ago, will join Southern Illinois and in-state rival Middle Tennessee as the three guests in the Eblen Center.
TTU will play both Illinois institutions on Friday the 20th – Western in the morning, Southern in the evening – before renewing the MTSU rivalry on Saturday evening.
Tech will then head south to open its OVC portion just four days later, when it meets up with Jacksonville State on Wednesday, Sept. 25. A home date with Southeast Missouri makes up the back end of the first week of league play, a Saturday afternoon clash on Sept. 28.
That match will start a string of three in a row in the Eblen Center, as Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State come to town on Friday, Oct. 4 and Saturday Oct. 5, respectively.
Following that three-match homestand – the first of two on Tech's OVC slate – the Golden Eagles will start their longest stretch of consecutive road games. TTU will play four straight behind enemy lines, beginning with the Nashville tandem, Belmont and Tennessee State, on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12, respectively.
The trip will continue with the longest excursions of the conference year – Eastern Illinois on Oct. 18, and SIUE on Oct. 19.
From there, Waldo's group will get five of its last eight matches at home, an advantageous setup should the Golden Eagles be fighting for an OVC Tournament berth.
Defending conference champion Austin Peay and Murray State will be the first two to visit Cookeville on Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26, respectively, before Jacksonville State comes up for the first league rematch of the season on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
The opening match in the month of November will be a rare, Saturday morning meeting at UT Martin on Nov. 2. Then, it will be off to Morehead State on Nov. 8 and Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 9 for Tech's final two road tilts of the regular season.
The final weekend of the conference year will be played in Cookeville, when TSU and Belmont invade the Hoop for matches on Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16, respectively.
Should Tech be one of the top-eight teams that qualify for the OVC Tournament, it will travel to the home of the regular-season champion, Nov. 21-23, with a spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information