Volleyball Announces 2009 Schedule
May 21, 2009
AUBURN - With the start of the 2009 season just three months away, the Auburn volleyball team and second-year head coach Wade Benson announced the full schedule on Thursday. Matches against eight teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 highlight the competitive schedule that includes three tournaments and 15 home matches.
"With the SEC being very strong in 2009, our thought process for this season was to have a varied preseason schedule in order to help us prepare for a really difficult conference slate," said Benson. "With nine newcomers and no seniors on the roster, it is very exciting but what we tried to develop in the preseason is showing the range of college volleyball prior to getting into the SEC portion of our schedule."
Benson said the early portion of the schedule will also allow the staff to work in various lineups and give everyone a look.
"We are going to have to play a lot of people in a lot of situations to see where we are at," said Benson. "We are playing a wide-ranging schedule that lets you see a multitude of systems and levels of play to see a lot of players in different situations."
The Tigers open their 2009 campaign at home with the War Eagle Invitational, Aug. 28-29, in the Student Activities Center. They will face in-state rival Alabama A&M who advanced to the 2008 NCAA Tournament as the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion in their first match while also hosting Alabama-Birmingham and Iona.
After the tournament, the Tigers play Troy at home on Sept. 2 before gearing up for the Minnesota Tournament, Sept. 4-5 in Minneapolis, Minn. The tournament features Minnesota and Iowa State, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, along with George Washington.
"We put a team like UAB, who was very strong last year and looks to be strong again, to test us in our first tournament and we then wanted to follow that up with a good test at Minnesota to see what the highest level of the SEC is going to be like," said Benson.
Following the Minnesota Tournament, the Tigers will take a break from the road and host Jacksonville State on Sept. 8, before traveling again to the Georgia Southern Tournament. The Tournament, which features Coastal Carolina, Wake Forest and GSU, wraps up the non-conference part of the schedule.
"We finish out the preseason at Georgia Southern and we will see a broad spectrum of competition with teams from the ACC, Big South and Southern Conferences," said Benson. "The purpose of the preseason slate is to show us where we need to be by the time we enter conference, as well as give us some opportunities for wins."
With the completion of the GSU Tournament, the Tigers' focus will turn to the SEC portion of its schedule. One of the toughest leagues in the country, the SEC placed four teams in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
"The SEC will be very top-strong this season with Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee leading the way with senior and junior-laden teams with a lot of history behind them," said Benson.
Auburn opens its SEC slate with two road matches against Mississippi State on Sept. 18, and in-state rival Alabama on Sept. 20.
The Tigers then return home for three matches beginning with LSU on Sept. 25. A week later on Oct. 2 the team will host Ole Miss, followed by Arkansas on Oct. 4.
After three home matches, the Tigers hit the road again to face two SEC rivals that advanced to the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament in Kentucky (Oct. 9) and Tennessee (Oct. 11). AU then returns home to host four matches against Florida (Oct. 16), South Carolina (Oct. 18), Alabama (Oct. 23) and Mississippi State (Oct. 25). An away match against Georgia on Oct. 28 rounds out the month October for the Tigers.
The month of November wraps up the regular season with SEC meetings that includes five road matches against LSU (Nov. 1), South Carolina (Nov. 6), Florida (Nov. 8), Arkansas (Nov. 20) and Ole Miss (Nov. 22). Squeezed in the middle of the road stretch are home matches against Tennessee (Nov. 13) and Kentucky (Nov. 15). The Tigers end the regular season with a home match against Georgia on Nov. 25.
A relatively young team that graduated only one senior from 2008, the Tigers look to improve from last season's 6-25 (1-19 SEC) record.
In all, the Tigers will play 15 home matches, 12 road matches and four neutral-location matches in 2009. Auburn is also at home during two home football weekends: Ball State (Sept. 26) and Kentucky (Oct. 17).
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