Volleyball unveils 2006 schedule
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Volleyball team will play one of the nation's toughest schedules in 2006, according to the team's official schedule released Wednesday by UT head coach Jerritt Elliott.
Texas will face 12 teams - accounting for 18 of the team's 27 scheduled matches - that participated in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Included in that total are matches with Final Four participants Nebraska and Santa Clara, and a possible match-up against defending national champion Washington. Penn State and Missouri, both top-10 stalwarts in 2005, also highlight the upcoming season's schedule.
"We've put together one of the toughest preseason schedules in the country, but we feel the program is ready to take the next step," Elliott said. "It's always fun when you get to face powerhouse teams early in the season.
"We've scheduled a very tough schedule early, but our team will be ready to go, and the experience will pay dividends when we enter Big 12 play."
Six of the team's seven non-conference opponents were NCAA participants, including Wisconsin, whom the Horns open the season against in Madison at the prestigious AVCA Showcase, August 25-26. Texas' second-round opponent will either be Washington, or Ohio, which advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 last year.
Texas will travel to Malibu, Calif., to play in Pepperdine's tournament the following weekend, September 1-2, and will face the Waves, Long Island defending Northeast Conference champions, and Cal Poly in the two-day event. Both Pepperdine and Long Island participated in the NCAA Tournament in 2005.
UT closes out its non-conference schedule with one of the toughest preseason tournaments in the nation - The Texas Invitational - September 7-8, at Gregory Gym.
Texas welcomes Santa Clara, which finished third nationally and was ranked fourth in the final poll last year, Penn State, which was ranked second for most of the year before late-season injuries cut the Nittany Lions' postseason run short, and fellow Big 12 foe Missouri, which is coming off an NCAA Elite Eight showing.
Missouri will open the tournament against Penn State on Thursday evening at 4:30 p.m., before Texas takes on Santa Clara at 6:30 p.m. The teams trade opponents on Friday, with Missouri facing Santa Clara at 4:30 p.m. and Texas and Penn State closing the tournament at 6:30 p.m.
UT then opens Big 12 play the following Wednesday, September 13, with a home match against Texas Tech. Texas will look to improve on its last two Big 12 finishes, where the team has closed the regular-season second to Nebraska in both 2004 and 2005.
For the third-straight year, Texas will play most of its home matches at 6:30 p.m., unless television coverage necessitates individual match time changes.
The home schedule is highlighted by Nebraska's return to Austin on Wednesday, October 18. Last season, Nebraska entered Gregory Gym for the last match of the regular season as the nation's top-ranked team and undefeated on the season. But by the end of the night, Texas had handed the Huskers their first loss of the 2005 campaign and snapped NU's 12-match winning streak in the series.
UT will host Texas A&M, always one of the teams' top matches of the season, on Wednesday, November 8. Texas has won the last three meetings between the two teams and swept the 2005 season series, a feat the team last accomplished in 1998.
Missouri, which split the regular-season series with the Horns in 2005, returns to Austin for the second time in the season on Saturday, Nov. 11. Last year, UT handed seventh-ranked MU a three-game loss in Austin in early October before the 10 th-ranked Tigers returned the favor to the ninth-ranked Horns in late November in Columbia.
For the second year in a row, the Longhorns close out the regular season against Nebraska, this time in Lincoln on Saturday, Nov. 25.
NCAA Championship begins the first weekend of December - Nov. 30-Dec. 2 - at campus sites, and NCAA Regional play follows the next weekend, Dec. 7-9. The NCAA will announce the four Regional hosts soon. The NCAA National Semifinals and Championship will be played in Omaha at the Quest Center, Dec. 14 and 16.
The Longhorns, who finished the 2005 season with a 24-5 record and who entered the NCAA Tournament ranked seventh nationally, return 11 of 12 letterwinners and all six starters and the team's libero in 2006. UT also welcomes two top-10 recruits in 2006: No. 3 Ashley Engle and No. 8 Destinee Hooker. Hooker is already on campus training with the volleyball and track and field teams, and last weekend won the high jump competition with the nation's best jump of the year - 6-3.5 - at the Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships.