With a total of 31 matches, Eastern prepares for a busy season that features array of new competition
Click Here for Complete 2012 Schedule (all times listed in PDT)
With three early-season tournaments and two new conference foes in the mix, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team has a chock-full schedule for the upcoming 2012 campaign.
The Eagles will play a total of 31 regular-season matches, which is at least two more than they've played each year in the last decade. Eastern has 11 non-conference duels and 20 within the Big Sky Conference. Highlighting this busy schedule are its 10 home matches at Reese Court, the first of which is slated for Monday, Sept. 17 against Portland State.
Along with the normal eight trips around the vast Big Sky Conference, Eastern will add a stop in Grand Forks, N.D. and Cedar City, Utah where it will face new league opponents, North Dakota and Southern Utah.
Prior to joining the Big Sky, North Dakota had won three-straight Great West Conference tournament titles and two of the last three regular-season crowns.
"We're definitely not just adding fodder to the conference," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "North Dakota and Southern Utah are both good teams that will certainly up the ante."
Eastern played Southern Utah for the first time in the 2011 season, and beat the Thunderbirds in five sets after recording a season-high .327 attack percentage.
Before diving into the newly expanded Big Sky though, Eastern has three early-season tournaments, including one right up the road in Spokane, Wash.
"With our schedule as compressed as it is now, our pre-conference tournaments become extremely important, and what the players do over the summer becomes important," said Kydd. "Once conference starts, there is really not much time to actually practice specific things. Everything will be focused on game prep and scouting. We must take full advantage of the experiences in the early season."
The Eagles open the season Aug. 24-25 at the Wyoming Invitational, where they will play four matches in two days. The team then returns to the Inland Northwest for the Gonzaga Invitational Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, where the Eags will face UC Riverside, South Dakota State and Gonzaga.
The final tune up before conference is a tournament at Iowa State that features some of the toughest competition from the Big 12, Big 10 and Big East Conferences. EWU will see Iowa State, Iowa and Syracuse in the two-day event Sept. 7-8. Host Iowa State is coming off a 25-6 season that saw the Cyclones finish second in the Big 12 Conference and advance to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship. Syracuse finished fourth out of 15 teams in the Big East Conference.
"We know we are going into the lion's den a little bit with the Iowa State tournament," said Kydd. "But we put ourselves in that situation on purpose. It's something we've done ever since I've been here even as an assistant coach. We go out and find tournaments with quality teams that are going to make us stretch. And hopefully, that experience carries over into conference."
The Big Sky season will commence for EWU on Sept. 13 with a road match at Sacramento State. The Eags make their Reese Court debut Monday, Sept. 17 against Portland State before heading to the Montanas Sept. 20 and 22, which is a road trip EWU swept during the 2011 season.
The fans will get their first look at Southern Utah on Sept. 27, while North Dakota pays a visit to Cheney the following week.
With the addition of the two new teams, the Big Sky tournament field was increased for the 2012 season from four qualifiers to six. By virtue of winning the regular-season title last year, Northern Colorado will host the championship Nov. 23-24 in Greeley, Colo.