May 8, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Two September tournaments at Thompson-Boling Arena and six 2012 NCAA Championship participants highlight the Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team's 2013 schedule, as announced by head coach Rob Patrick on Wednesday afternoon.
"We're very excited about the 2013 season and the schedule we've put together for our program," said Patrick. "First of all, the SEC is going to be stronger than it's ever been next year. There are a lot of great returning players throughout the conference and I think we'll see a lot more parity in the conference.
"Our conference schedule is going to be especially tough," Patrick added. "We have five returning NCAA Tournament teams in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Texas A&M and of course Tennessee, and I firmly believe there's going to be a couple more teams that will be vying for NCAA berths this season. Our work is cut out for us in the SEC."
Coming off their fifth-consecutive and eighth NCAA Tournament berth in the past nine seasons, the Lady Volunteers will play a total of 32 regular-season matches, including 16 at Thompson-Boling Arena where they have put together a dominating 59-12 record over the past five seasons.
The Big Orange will host two regular season tournaments in Knoxville for the first time since 1997, welcoming a combined seven teams for the Comcast Lady Vol Classic and an additional, yet-to-be-named home tournament. UT will take on 26 different opponents during the 2013 campaign, including four that finished the season either ranked or receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
"We put together a good non-conference schedule that will help prepare a really young team for the SEC," Patrick said. "We'll have two home tournaments, which I'm very excited about. We love playing in front of our home fans, the best fans in the country. They're so passionate and we wouldn't have the huge winning percentage and home-court advantage that we do if it weren't for the incredible support of Vol Nation."
UT will christen the season away from Rocky Top for the first time in five years as the Lady Vols head north to Cincinnati, Ohio, to compete in the Cincinnati Invitational at Fifth Third Arena. Tennessee opens play against the tournament host Bearcats on Friday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. UT welcomed Cincinnati to Knoxville last season for the Comcast Lady Vol Classic and earned a four-set victory.
The Big Orange concludes the season-opening weekend with matchups against new BIG EAST member Butler and Morehead State out of the Ohio Valley Conference on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively. The Eagles finished 2012 with a 26-7 overall record and held the nation's longest winning streak of 24-straight until being upset in the OVC Tournament title match.
Tennessee returns to the Volunteer State for the second week of the season, making the short trip to Chattanooga to compete in a three-day, five-team tournament. The Lady Vols and Lady Mocs will get things started on Thursday, Sept., 5 at 7 p.m. at Maclellan Gymnasium. The Lady Vols will also play UNC Asheville (Sept. 6), UT Martin (Sept. 7) and Charlotte (Sept. 7) at Chattanooga's tournament.
The Big Orange returns to Knoxville for the Comcast Lady Vol Classic, where it will welcome two 2012 NCAA Tournament participants in ETSU and Wichita State. Also competing in the three-day event will be Austin Peay and VCU. Tennessee's home opener will take place on Thursday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. against Austin Peay. Coming off a Sweet 16 appearance from a season ago, Wichita State will play the Orange & White in the Friday nightcap. Tennessee beat the Shockers in a thrilling five-setter in Wichita, Kan., last season. UT concludes the tournament with Saturday matchups against ETSU and VCU.
"We have some great teams coming in for our tournaments," said Patrick. "Wichita State was a Sweet 16 team last year; ETSU, an in-state team that made the NCAA Tournament and won its conference, as well as a couple more in-state teams. We always like to play and compete against in-state teams and travel within the state of Tennessee to play in front of UT fans state-wide. We'll be going to Chattanooga and playing the Lady Mocs as well as UT Martin, and we also have Austin Peay and ETSU coming to our first tournament. We're definitely excited about playing these strong volleyball programs from The Volunteer State."
Since 1973, the Lady Vols hold an all-time record of 109-20-4 against in-state opponents.
Tennessee wraps up regular season tournament play with its second home tournament of the 2013 campaign. Coastal Carolina, Georgia Tech and Jacksonville State will come to Thompson-Boling Arena from Sept. 20-21 for the event. The Lady Vols host Georgia Tech out of the ACC on Friday at 7 p.m., and take on Jacksonville State on Saturday morning. Final SEC preparations will be made in the first-ever matchup against the Chanticleers on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
"We're playing some very strong teams; teams that have been in the NCAA Tournament many times," said Patrick. "Georgia Tech and Jacksonville State have a history of playing in the NCAAs and we always like to play strong ACC teams. Coastal Carolina will also be very strong. They have an experienced and good coach, who we competed against when he was at Mississippi State.
"Overall, we have a very strong schedule and a non-conference schedule that will prepare us for what I think is going to be one of the strongest SEC schedules we've ever played."
Unlike the past seven seasons where a 20-match slate was played, the SEC will move to an 18-match league schedule in 2013, with the Lady Vols opening theirs on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1:30 p.m. against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
To open October, Tennessee makes road trips to Georgia (Oct. 4) and Kentucky (Oct. 6), before returning to Rocky Top to play Missouri (Oct. 11) and Arkansas (Oct. 11). The Big Orange is back on the road for the remainder of the month for four-consecutive away matches against Ole Miss (Oct. 18), Mississippi State (Oct. 20), South Carolina (Oct. 25) and Florida (Oct 27).
Six of the Lady Vols' nine matches in November will be played in Knoxville, including a stretch of three straight to open the final month of the regular season. UT concludes its regular season slate with a six-match gauntlet in a 15-day span, including home dates against LSU (Nov. 17), Florida (Nov. 20) and Mississippi State (Nov. 30).