Carolina Gamecock Volleyball Announces Challenging 2009 Schedule
May 20, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. - After narrowly missing out on the NCAA Tournament a year ago, South Carolina head coach Ben Somera has upped the ante for his volleyball team with the announcement of the 2009 schedule. Including the Southeastern Conference double round-robin schedule, 16 matches pit the Gamecocks against a team that finished 2008 in the top 100 of the final Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) released by the NCAA. Two more of those matches come against teams just outside the top 100.
"In an effort to show we are tournament-worthy," said Somera, "we have scheduled teams that have consistently been in the top 25, top 50 and top 100 of the RPI."
Seven teams that played in last year's NCAA Tournament appear on the Gamecocks' schedule, meaning 11 of the scheduled 30 matches will come against postseason participants from a year ago. Three of those come during non-conference play, including the season opener in the Big Orange Bash against archrival Clemson. Also that weekend, the Gamecocks will face in-state foes College of Charleston and Winthrop. The squad returns home to host the Gamecock Invitational, where Eastern Kentucky, Coastal Carolina and UNC Greensboro will be the opposition.
The final non-conference weekend tournament takes place at Rice, where the Gamecocks will encounter the host Owls, Wichita State and Harvard. Both Rice and Wichita State were in the NCAA Tournament field in 2008.
"I expect our conference RPI to improve over last year, with some of the younger teams last year having more preseason success coming into conference play," added Somera.
Twice during SEC play, South Carolina will face a stretch of four-consecutive matches against 2008 NCAA Tournament teams. The squad opens play on the road at Arkansas and Mississippi on Sept. 18 and 20 before coming home to host Alabama and Mississippi State. The first of those killer stretches begins on Fri., Oct. 2, when Tennessee comes to the Volleyball Competition Facility. The squad hosts Kentucky that Sunday before Florida hits Columbia on Wednesday. To finish the run, the Gamecocks head to LSU on Fri., Feb. 9. The team will get a week of rest before finishing the first half of the conference schedule at Georgia and Auburn.
The second half starts on Oct. 23-25 at home against the Rebels and Razorbacks, while Carolina goes west to Mississippi State and Alabama the next weekend. The team returns home to host Auburn and Georgia on Nov. 6-8 before stepping out of league play for the final time on Fri., Nov. 13, to face South Carolina State in Orangeburg. The Gamecocks host their final home match of 2009's regular season on Nov. 15 against LSU to start the final challenging skein. South Carolina closes the season on the road at Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida, with the final match coming the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 27.
Ten letterwinners and 12 players from last year's 21-9 squad return for 2009.