Tech takes on Tennessee, Lipscomb on Saturday; meets Western Kentucky on Sunday
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Twenty-three years after graduating from the University of Tennessee, John Blair will be returning to Knoxville on Saturday. This time he will be bringing his Tennessee Tech University volleyball team with him.
The Golden Eagles will look to kick off their 2009 season in style when they take on the Lady Vols in their first of three matches this weekend at the UT Lady Vol Invitational. Tech will also meet Lipscomb, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, on Saturday before taking on Western Kentucky, a member of the Sun Belt Conference, on Sunday.
Ready for a break from two-a-day practices at the Eblen Center, the Golden Eagles are excited to get the season underway.
"This has been a really long preseason compared to years past when it was only two weeks," said senior Katie Kenline. "The whole team is ready to play."
The team will have to be ready to play - and play well - in order to keep pace with its opponents this weekend. Tennessee and Western Kentucky both qualified for the NCAA tournament a year ago, while Lipscomb narrowly missed the tournament last season but is picked first this year in its preseason conference poll.
"Tournaments before the conference season starts are always hard, so we'll have to be on our ‘A' game," said junior Leah Meffert. "We just have to work hard and do what we're supposed to do on our side of the net."
Unlike the 2008 season when the Golden Eagles returned nearly all of their starters, this season will feature some new players wearing the purple and gold. Tech has five freshmen on its roster, all of whom will be given the opportunity to make contributions right away.
"We're going to have some freshmen on the floor," Blair said. "We're excited about this group and excited to get this started."
Meffert also acknowledged that there will be a learning curve both for the newcomers and the team as a whole.
"It'll take some time to get used to each other because there will be some new faces on the court," Meffert said.
The Golden Eagles will rely on their newly appointed team captains to help the freshmen acclimate to their new environment. Kenline, along with fellow seniors Amanda Lindgren and Teresa Craig, will serve as team captains this season.
"The freshmen are going to be looking up to us," Kenline said. "We need to guide them in the right direction both on and off the court."
While this is the first season being a team captain for each player, all three are accustomed to leading by example on the court. The trio has played more than 1,000 sets combined over the past three seasons and will draw on that experience this year.
Despite of all that experience, Kenline acknowledges that there is always more to learn.
"This weekend will be a learning experience and an evaluation of where we are," Kenline said. "I'm excited to play a different team and see where we stand."