Bowling Green, Ky. — Coming off a historic 2007 season that saw the Western Kentucky University volleyball team earn itself an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, head coach Travis Hudson has put his team in a position to repeat that accomplish this fall with a demanding 2008 schedule that was released on Thursday.
The Lady Toppers will take on six teams that joined them in the field of 64 last season. They will also take on a pair of Big Ten schools, and play matches against teams from the SEC, ACC, Big East and Pac 10.
“We were very aggressive in scheduling this year. Coming off a year when we got an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, it puts you in a position where you know getting that bid is possible now,” said Hudson. “With the talent and experience that we have returning next fall, we certainly wanted to put ourselves in a position to repeat the accomplishment again.”
The Lady Toppers open the season with seven straight matches on the road, beginning with a pair of weekend tournaments in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Huntington, W.Va. WKU will open the campaign on Aug. 29 against Alabama — one of the six ‘07 tournament teams on the slate — before taking on Iowa and Nicholls State the following day to close out that event. That is followed by a trip to Marshall’s tournament the following weekend, where the Lady Toppers will face off with East Tennessee State and Virginia Tech before closing out the weekend against the host Thundering Herd.
WKU will hit the road on Sept. 9 to take on another 2007 NCAA Tournament participant in Xavier before finally opening the home portion of the schedule Sept. 12-13 when it welcomes in four teams for the annual Lady Topper Invitational. The two-day event will see the Lady Toppers take on Furman and defending Mid-American Conference champion Miami (Ohio) on Friday, before closing out the event on Saturday with matches against Valparaiso and Tennessee Tech.
WKU is back on the road the following weekend (Sept. 19-20) as it travels to Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on Michigan, Arizona State and Albany. The Wolverines advanced to the second weekend of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, while Albany is the defending America East Conference champions. That will serve as the final tuneup for Sun Belt Conference play as the Lady Toppers jump right into league action with three straight home matches against SBC East Division rivals.
“There are no breaks in our nonconference schedule. We’ve got a schedule full of championship-caliber teams,” added Hudson. “We certainly understand that we are not going to run through those matches, but we feel like we can win more than our share of them and be in a good position come tournament time.”
League play gets underway on Friday, Sept. 26, as defending league champion Middle Tennessee visits Diddle Arena for a 7 p.m. (CDT) match. WKU will then host Florida Atlantic and Florida International the following weekend (Oct. 3-4). The remainder of the home schedule includes a nonconference matchup against regional rival Cincinnati on Oct. 14, as well as five more Sun Belt Conference matches. The Lady Toppers will host a three-match weekend Oct. 24-26 as Louisiana-Monroe, New Orleans and Louisiana-Lafayette visit Bowling Green. WKU will then close out the 2008 regular season by hosting South Alabama and Troy on the final weekend of the season (Nov. 14-15).
The road portion of the conference slate gets underway with a weekend trip through Arkansas to take on UALR and Arkansas State Oct. 10-11. WKU will also play road matches against Sun Belt West Division teams Denver (Oct. 17) and North Texas (Oct. 19), as well as returning games on at each of the other five SBC East schools. The Lady Toppers will visit Middle Tennessee for a Monday night match on Oct. 20, before closing out the road slate with four straight matches away from home on back-to-back weekends. After visiting South Alabama and Troy (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1), WKU will head to Florida to take on FAU (Nov. 7) and FIU (Nov. 9) before returning home to finish up the regular season.
“The Sun Belt returns the majority of its star players, so I really think this league will be every bit as good as it was a year ago,” added Hudson. “There are a lot of teams in our league that are on the rise right now, and that just continues to make this a better, stronger volleyball conference.”
The 2008 Sun Belt Conference Tournament will take place in Miami, Fla., Nov. 20-22 at Pharmed Arena on Florida International’s campus.
The Lady Toppers return 10 letterwinners and five starters from last year’s club that went 27-9 and 14-3 in the Sun Belt.