CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The 32-match 2011 volleyball slate for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was revealed on Tuesday by head coach Travis Filar. Thirteen home games are on the docket at Maclellan Gym including the Comfort Inn & Suites Invitational on Sept. 9-10.
"The schedule is definitely going to challenge the team, but the teams we face early in the season are balanced and will prepare us for the ever competitive and always improving Southern Conference," said Filar. "We are excited to be home for 13 contests and host a tournament that includes three teams from the area."
Chattanooga starts the season in Hattiesburg, Miss., at the Southern Miss Invitational on Aug. 26 with matches against Northwestern (La.) State and the host Golden Eagles before facing Jackson State the next day.
The new direction of Chattanooga volleyball in the Filar era begins at Maclellan Gym on Aug. 30 hosting Belmont at 7 p.m. It is the first home match for the Lady Mocs in the month of August since 2007.
"The first three tournaments are very challenging with a wide array of teams from similar mid-major conferences," said Filar. "We will be competing against some really good teams that have excellent coaches."
The Owl Invitational is just a short drive down I-75 to Kennesaw, Ga., and matches Chattanooga against Oral Roberts, Winthrop and Kennesaw State on Sept. 2-3.
Chattanooga returns home to host the Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational on Sept. 9-10. Three matches will be played each day as the Lady Mocs welcome East Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UNC Asheville.
"Our home tournament gives us a challenge against two in-state schools, which we will consistently be battling for recruits," said Filar. "It will also be a big weekend for Chattanooga Athletics as the football team plays its first home game of the season on Saturday night (Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.)."
A trip to Blacksburg, Va., for the Hokie Classic completes the preseason tournaments for the Lady Mocs against Virginia Tech and Connecticut. It will be the second-consecutive year that Chattanooga and Virginia Tech, a top-50 opponent, meet on the volleyball court.
After traveling to Alabama A&M on Sept. 20, the Lady Mocs begin Southern Conference play the following weekend on the road with matches at Western Carolina and Appalachian State.
"I believe that sometimes it is better to start off on the road with less distractions because the team is together and can stay focused," said Filar. "We have a lot of road trips prior to that, and we will know what it is like being together as a team and family."
Mercer comes to the Scenic City for a mid-week match on Sept. 28 breaking up four SoCon road contests. The Lady Mocs then travel to Wofford on Oct. 1 for the first of eight matches in league play starting at 6 p.m. or later.
"The coaches in the league were able to switch the schedule around during a couple of weekends to play on Friday or Saturday night," said Filar. "The environment and excitement should generate some more fans and support from the community. It also allows us to give the student-athletes a full day off before preparing for the next week in the classroom and on the court."
The first of two matches against Samford in the Southern Rail Rivalry Series is on Oct. 5 in Birmingham, Ala. Home-court was not friendly to either team last season as the Lady Mocs earned a split for the first time since Samford joined the league in 2008.
Chattanooga beings a four-match home stand on Oct. 8-9 against UNCG and Elon. College of Charleston and The Citadel come to Maclellan Gym the following weekend.
A return trip to Mercer for a mid-week match is set for Oct. 18. Then, the Lady Mocs head to Davidson and Georgia Southern for the weekend (Oct. 22-23).
Back-to-back 7 p.m. matches starting on Thursday (Oct. 27) against Furman and followed by Samford begins a home stretch with four of six matches at Maclellan Gym.
"To finish the year at home, I think that we will be well rested," said FIlar." Hopefully, we will also be playing our best volleyball towards the end of the season."
Chattanooga continues to battle its North Division opponents on Nov. 4-5 at UNCG and Elon.
The regular season concludes with first serve at 7 p.m. in Friday and Saturday night matches against Western Carolina and Appalachian State on Nov. 11-12. The final home match against the Mountaineers serves as Senior Day.
The top four teams in the North and South Divisions head to Birmingham, Ala., for the Southern Conference Tournament that runs from Nov. 18-20. It is a single-elimination event with the champion receiving the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"Making the SoCon Tournament is a goal that we have talked about a lot this spring," said Filar. "It is the first step in moving the program forward because when you get there anything can happen and you have a fighting chance of winning the tournament."
Admission to all the home matches at Maclellan Gym is free and the times are subject to change. The schedule page at GoMocs.com will have the most up-to-date information on game times and live events for home and away matches.