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Golden Eagles to face 30 matches in 2011 volleyball season

Home opener is Friday, Sept. 16 vs. UT Martin
Click here to view the complete 2011 schedule

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech volleyball team will play its first 11 matches and 13 of the first 14 contests on the road in 2011, but comes home to host 10 of it's 20 Ohio Valley Conference matches in Eblen Center, and ninth-year head coach John Blair thinks the competition will provide tests that can benefit his Golden Eagle squad in 2011.

"It's an interesting schedule with plenty of challenges, but it's designed for us to be playing in the OVC Championship Tournament," Blair said. "The tournaments we open with are all excellent tournaments with a real high level of competition. Every team we play is going to contend for their conference championship. We do that in the hope that it will prepare us for our conference championship."

Blair announced the team's 30-match schedule this week with an eye toward building a squad that can challenge for the title when the OVC gathers its top six teams, Nov. 17-21. Beginning with 10 non-conference matches and ending with 20 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 2011 season.

The team will spend the the first three weekends on the road, opening the year with the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta, Aug. 26-27. The Golden Eagles will take on Louisville, Georgia Tech and Kansas State on the opening weekend.

“We’ve tried to create a challenging pre-conference schedule and I think we’ve accomplished that,” said Blair.

The Golden Eagles will follow up with the Lipscomb Invitational Sept. 2-3 in Nashville, where they will face Arkansas State, UNC Charlotte and the host Bisons of Lipscomb. After a return visit to Nashville for a non-conference match at Belmont on Sept. 6, the Golden Eagles wrap up tourney play at the UT Chattanooga Invitational to compete against UTC, East Tennessee State and UNC Asheville, Sept. 10-11.

“This is the way we typically start our season,” Blair said about the three weekend tourneys on the road. “Being on the road early doesn't really affect us that much. We're not gone for any long trips or cross country travel, and we're usually back home by late Saturday. We play in our area against teams that most of our area kids are familair with, and they like that.”

The 20-match OVC schedule begins with a contest at Jacksonville State on Sept. 13. The home opener for the Golden Eagles is on Friday, Sept. 16, when UT Martin visits for a 7 p.m. contest.

“There are four new head coaches in our league this year, plus a new team in SIU Edwardsville," Blair said. "We have not played them, so we have to learn their personnel and their system. That's a new challenge."

In addition to SIUE, new coaches will direct Jacksonville State, Southeast Missouri and Austin Peay. Tech hosts two conference matches in September (UTM and Tennessee State) and four in October (Austin Peay, Jascksonville State, SIU Edwardsville and Murray State), and finishes up with two home contests in November (Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State) on the final weekend of the regular season.

“Of course, the coveted prize is the tournament championship,” Blair said. “We want to play our best volleyball at the end of the season, but we're obviouly not ignoring our pre-conference matches. We'll find out the very first weekend exactly what we're made of."

The Tech roster will feature four returning starters in Kelsey Gray, Elise Robertson, Natalie Penrod and Allison May. Blair looks to replace four departed seniors (Melanie Culp, Leah Meffert, Marie Peddicord and Laura Pierce). The 2011 roster will include four signees and three walk-ons.