Bowling Green, Ky. — A total of 14 home matches and five meetings against 2006 NCAA Tournament teams highlight the 2007 Western Kentucky University volleyball schedule that was released on Thursday.
“We are really going to be tested early on. There just aren’t very many breaks in this year’s schedule — every weekend we’ve got challenges,” said Lady Topper head coach Travis Hudson. “On top of that, I feel like the Sun Belt Conference is better than ever, so it will really be a season-long test for us.”
WKU will open the season on the road as it travels to the Northern Illinois Invitational Aug. 24-25 to take on Indiana, Western Illinois and the host Huskies. That event will serve as a tuneup for the home opener on Aug. 29 when Kentucky makes its first visit to E.A. Diddle Arena since 1989 for a 7 p.m. (CDT) match.
“It’s exciting to get Kentucky back in Diddle after we went to their place last year as part of our home-and-home deal,” Hudson added. “Coach (Craig) Skinner has a great program, and that match will bring a level of volleyball that has been in Diddle Arena very few times in a nonconference matchup.”
Diddle Arena will play host to the annual Lady Topper Invitational Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 as Tennessee State, Gardner-Webb and Marshall come to town for the round-robin event. WKU will then spend the next two weekends on the road, traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., Sept. 7-8 to take part in the UNC Volleyball Classic — an event which features Villanova, defending Patriot League champion American and the host Tar Heels. The Lady Toppers will head east again to Maryland the following weekend to join Dayton, Maryland-Baltimore County and Towson in the 2007 Towson Invitational.
After hosting 2006 Atlantic Sun champion Belmont on Sept. 18, the Lady Toppers begin defense of their seventh straight Sun Belt Conference East Division championships on Sept. 21, opening league play at Troy. WKU will close out the weekend swing at South Alabama the following afternoon before returning home to host North Texas and Denver on Oct. 5 and 6.
A roadtrip to Cincinnati on Oct. 2 will be the final nonconference match as the remaining 13 matches of the regular season will be against Sun Belt teams. Arkansas State and UALR will visit Diddle Arena Oct. 12-13 before WKU hits the road for a weekend swing at Florida International and Florida Atlantic Oct. 12-13.
The Lady Toppers return home to host 2006 Sun Belt champion Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15, then will hit the road for a three-game weekend swing through Louisiana Oct. 19-21 — visiting Louisiana-Lafayette, New Orleans and Louisiana-Monore on consecutive days.
WKU returns to Diddle Arena for a four-matches homestand against SBC East Division foes as FIU and FAU visit on Oct. 26-27. The Lady Toppers then close out the home schedule against Troy and South Alabama Nov. 2-3 before ending the regular season at MTSU on Nov. 10.
The 2007 Sun Belt Conference Tournament is slated for Nov. 15-18 in Denver, Colo.
Coming off a 26-10 season in 2006, the Lady Toppers return five starters and nine letterwinners to the court in ‘07. That group includes reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year — All-America junior middle hitter Megan Argabright — and 2007 all-SBC performers in senior middle hitter Jenna Gideon and junior setter Julia Noe.
“We are still a very young volleyball team, but all those kids are a year older, so it is a young, yet experienced, group,” said Hudson. “The talent level of this team is tremendous, but we are going to have to be ready to play every time we take the floor this season.”