SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (APRIL 29, 2014): The University of Sioux Falls volleyball program released its 2014 schedule on Tuesday, which features six matches against teams that made last year's NCAA Division II Tournament.
USF will play 30 matches in all, including 15 at the Stewart Center.
“Now that we have fully transitioned into the NSIC and have a couple of seasons of experience in the league, we decided it was time to bulk up the competitiveness of our out-of-conference schedule,” said USF head coach Joel McCartney, who will be in his fourth season with the Cougars and in the offseason was named to the Big South Conference’s All-Decade (2000-09) Volleyball Team.
The Cougars open the season south of the Mason-Dixon line for the second year in a row. USF will participate in the Queens University of Charlotte Invitational on Sept. 5-6., where they will play Catawba College, University of Montevallo, Armstrong Atlantic State and Queens University.
The Cougars will then travel to Yankton on Sept. 11 for the front-end of a home-and-home series with former GPAC foe Mount Marty College.
USF and Augustana College will co-host the second annual NSIC Challenge the weekend of Sept. 12-13. The Cougars will face the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Fort Hays State on Friday, Sept 12 before closing out their tournament schedule versus Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western on Sept. 13.
"We are excited that we will once again co-host the NSIC Challenge with Augustana because it give our fans a great preview of our talented, young team,” said McCartney. “We scheduled two pre-season tournaments that will test our level of play right out of the gate and provide a great measure of who we can become as a team.”
Of USF's 20 NSIC matches, six will be against teams that played in last year's NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars travel to Southwest Minnesota State, a 2013 NCAA second round participant, in their NSIC opener on Sept. 16. After hitting the road for matches at St. Cloud State and 2013 NCAA third round participant Minnesota Duluth, the Cougars will return home for a lengthy six-match homestand. USF will play Wayne State in a mid-week tilt on Tues., Sept. 23 before a four-game skein against a quartet of northern-based league opponents: Bemidji State (9/26), Minnesota Crookston (9/27), University of Mary (10/3) and Minot State (10/4). USF wraps up the homestand with the back end of their home-and-home with the Mount Marty Lancers.
The Cougars will then play five straight road matches beginning at NCAA tournament participant Northern State on Oct. 10 followed by a quick trip to MSU-Moorhead the following day. USF returns to Sioux Falls on Oct. 14 for a midweek showdown against crosstown rival Augustana College. Last year’s First Dakota National Bank Mayor’s Cup match was one of the most memorable regular-season matchups in recent memory. Down two sets to none to the rival Vikings, USF staged a huge comeback to defeat Augustana College in a five-set thriller (25-27, 25-27, 25-23, 28-26, 15-13) at the Stewart Center. The victory was the first for USF over the Vikings in more than 30 years.
After road matches at Winona State and Upper Iowa University, the Cougars will play three straight at the Stewart Center beginning with a Friday night match against Minnesota State Mankato. USF will host seven-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul and Southwest Minnesota, in perhaps their toughest NSIC stretch on Oct. 25 and 28.
The Cougars will spend Halloween night at Minnesota Crookston and play their final NSIC road match at Bemidji State on Nov. 1. USF will wrap up its regular season at home against perennial power Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State on Nov. 7-8.
The top eight teams in the final conference standings will qualify for the 2014 NSIC Tournament, to be held Nov. 12-15 with opening round matches held Wednesday, Nov. 12 (highest seeds will host). USF went 19-12 overall (10-10 NSIC) in 2013 and received their first-ever NSIC tournament berth. The No.7-seeded Cougars fell to No. 2 Minnesota Duluth in the opening round.
USF returns nine letterwinners and five starters, including NSIC 2nd team picks Emily Johnson and Samantha Lovell. Coach McCartney’s 2014 signing class consists of five incoming freshmen that hail from Minnesota (two), Colorado (two), Wisconsin and Nebraska.
“Our success last season had a lot to do with the performance of our two seniors, libero Andrea Odbert and setter Alexa Reed,” said McCartney. “Dre and Lex did a great job of elevating our program and they will be sorely missed.”
He added, “That said, we have five full-time starters back and a great class of freshmen to pick-up the torch and move us forward.”