MARTIN, Tenn. – Four early season tournaments and the usual tough Ohio Valley Conference slate highlight The University of Tennessee at Martin’s 2013 volleyball schedule, as released today by Skyhawk head coach Darrin McClure.
Coming off a postseason berth in which nine of the team’s top 10 players were underclassmen in 2012, the Skyhawks will look to take the next step in McClure’s sixth season at the helm. UT Martin returns seven players from last year’s OVC Tournament squad – including redshirt senior Kelly Hogan, a four-year starter at outside hitter who was hurt after the first four matches last season. Past All-OVC performers Emily Keaton (team-high 262 kills in 2012) and Amanda Crask (884 assists as a freshman in 2012) also return for UT Martin.
“The preseason schedule is going to be one that is challenging,” McClure said. “We are not hosting a tournament this year so the challenge for us will be to compete on the road early and often during late August and early September. Despite the fact that we play two Southeastern Conference schools, I believe this schedule allows us to compete against competition similar to our conference.”
The Skyhawks will kick off their 2013 schedule with a tournament at Bradley on Aug. 30-31 – paying a visit to Peoria, Ill. for the first time in program history. The tournament field is still being set, as the participating teams will be released momentarily.
“This tournament will allow us to face teams that are similar to our RPI and very similar to our conference style,” McClure said. “Bradley is an up-and-coming team in the Missouri Valley Conference and Maryland-Eastern Shore played in the NCAA Tournament last year. I expect this tournament to be a great way to get the season started against tough opponents.”
UT Martin then holds its home opener on Tuesday, Sept. 3 against a familiar nonconference foe in Evansville. The Skyhawks will square off against the MVC opponent for the fifth time in the last six years.
“Evansville is a great team to play as they are typically big and physical,” McClure said. “I expect them to be a good challenge for us and I look forward to having this match so early in the year in front of our fans.”
The Skyhawks will then make the near 300-mile trip across the state to participate in a tournament hosted by Chattanooga on Sept. 6-7. While there, UT Martin will face Charlotte, UNC Asheville and Tennessee – facing the Lady Vols for just the second time in program history, with the only other meeting taking place in 2004.
A competitive tournament at Alabama then follows on Sept. 13-14, where the Skyhawks will battle South Alabama, Arkansas State and Nicholls State before playing the host Crimson Tide in the Saturday nightcap.
“Getting to play four matches this weekend and the following weekend at Alabama will go a long way to help us prepare,” McClure said. “We get to play Tennessee and Alabama on successive weekends along with other very quality opponents that we have played in the past.”
UT Martin then heads to Indianapolis for a tournament hosted by Butler on Sept. 20-21. The Skyhawks are matched up against Toledo, Butler and Wisconsin-Green Bay in the final nonconference tournament of the 2013 campaign.
“The tournament at Butler is a great way for us to finally prepare for our conference slate,” McClure said. “Getting to play in Hinkle Fieldhouse is a neat experience but the opponents we play are a real challenge. I have never coached against these three teams so this will be a great chance for us to see where we stand going into our conference play the following week.”
Following a nonconference date at Alabama A&M on Sept. 24, UT Martin begins OVC play with a four-game homestand against SIU Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri and Tennessee Tech from Sept. 27-Oct. 4. The match against Tennessee Tech on Friday, Oct. 4 will coincide with UT Martin’s Homecoming weekend.
The Skyhawks then hit the road for four straight league matchups on Oct. 11-19 – traveling to Murray State, Austin Peay, Tennessee State and Belmont.
UT Martin hosts Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State on Oct. 25-26, then travels to Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville on Nov. 1-2. The Skyhawks round out their home slate with showdowns against OVC West rivals Austin Peay (Nov. 8) and Murray State (Nov. 9) before concluding the season with road matches at Southeast Missouri (Nov. 12) and Jacksonville State (Nov. 16).
The OVC Tournament is once again hosted by the regular season champion. This year’s tournament will be held on Nov. 21-25.
“This year should be another fun and exciting year of OVC volleyball,” McClure said. “ I can’t wait to get started.”