East Carolina Volleyball Announces 2007 Schedule
July 6, 2007
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina volleyball team, led by its experienced upperclassmen, returners and talented corps of freshmen, will be tested early and often according to the 2007 schedule released by head coach Chris Rushing Friday. The slate features four tournaments and matches against in-state rivals UNC Greensboro, Campbell and UNC Wilmington, as well as the Pirates' Conference USA contests.
When ECU makes the short trip to Durham to begin the season at the Duke Invitational (Aug. 24-25), the field will have an NCAA regional flavor to it as the Pirates' three opponents all qualified for the tournament last season. Duke, Purdue and Winthrop all finished the season with a combined record of 86-18 while the Blue Devils and Eagles took their conference titles. Despite the difficult slate, Rushing believes that scheduling top competition will only make his team better over time.
"We start off the season with some heavy hitters," Rushing said. "Winthrop has won its conference several years and Duke and Purdue finished the season ranked nationally at No. 22 and No. 18. I feel that if we want to become better known nationally, we have to compete against some of the top teams in the country. This first weekend is going to be a huge test for us to see where we are and where we need to go for the future."
Before resuming tournament play, ECU will host UNC Greensboro at Minges Coliseum in its only non-conference home match (Aug. 28). The Pirates will then travel to Williamsburg to face host William and Mary, Southern Illinois and Kent State at the Tribe Classic. After a mid-week trip to Campbell, ECU will head to Raleigh for the Marriott Courtyard Volleyball Challenge featuring host N.C. State, Akron and Dartmouth. A battle at UNC Wilmington then precedes the Pirates' excursion to the nation's capital as ECU will play host George Washington, Howard and Hartford in the George Washington Invitational.
Rushing believes that this stretch of matches will prepare the Pirates for a grueling Conference USA race. "These three weeks of tournaments and non-conference matches will also be true tests for us as we will compete against a lot of teams that are comparable to our conference opponents," Rushing continued. "We have definitely set up a schedule that facilitates growth and preparation for our conference schedule."
A match at Tulsa (Sept. 21) and a home contest against SMU (Sept. 23) mark the beginning of conference play for ECU. The Pirates will host SMU, UTEP, Tulane, Memphis, UAB, Marshall, UCF and Southern Miss while traveling to Tulsa, Houston and Rice and returning home-court advantage to its east division rivals. The Pirates will play 16 conference contests in preparation for the 2007 Conference USA Volleyball Championship in Huntington, W.Va. The winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Volleyball Championship.
After winning a program-best 10 C-USA matches in 2006, Rushing wants to see ECU solidify its position at the top of the conference. "Once we hit conference play, it's anybody's game," Rushing stated. "There is so much parity in our conference that any team can win on a given night and anyone can take home the coveted championship. We will work our hardest to accomplish this task for the first time in school history and we will never stop until it happens."
The Pirates return five starters and eight letterwinners from a 2006 squad that finished 19-12 overall and 10-6 in conference play. With six freshmen donning the purple and gold for the first time, Rushing feels that the squad has the potential to be a formidable mix of experience and youth.
"We are very excited to get in the gym with the team," Rushing finished. "We want to continue the great things we have been experiencing here in the past couple seasons."