[Bumped from FanPosts for thoroughness. And these girls might be pretty good this year. Go see them play.]
The talk of Blacksburg this August may be Logan Thomas and the debut of a new era for Hokie football, but another Virginia Tech program is looking to turn the page and a few more heads after completing its most successful season ever last fall. The Virginia Tech volleyball team will hang an NCAA Tournament banner in Cassell after winning 20 matches and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. But for a program that has produced an All-American 5 times in the last 5 seasons, the Hokies hope to make last year's success the norm.
Inside you'll find a preview of the upcoming season in which Tech takes on its most challenging schedule ever. I invite you to come out and support the Hokies this Friday and Saturday as they take on Cleveland State, High Point, and the Indiana Hoosiers in their season opening tournament in Cassell Coliseum.
If you're unfamiliar with the sport of competitive indoor volleyball, fear not; It's not a tough one to pick up and enjoy. Virginia Tech has fielded a women's volleyball team since 1977 and teams have competed in a now 64-team NCAA Tournament to determine a national champion since 1981.
As a basic premise, a point is scored on each play when the ball either hits the ground, or a fault occurs (such as making too many consecutive hits). A "set" is won when a team reaches 25 points and wins by at least two points. The winner of the match is determined by a best of five sets series. Teams are made up of 6 players which have varying roles: setters, middle blockers, outside hitters and defensive specialists. To learn more about the game itself, check out the Campus Emporium sports page's series on Virginia Tech Volleyball.
|Hokies Volleyball at a Glance|
|Head Coach||Chris Riley (6th year, 90-67)|
|2010 Record||20-12 (10-10 ACC, 7th)|
|2010 Postseason||NCAA Tournament Second Round|
|2010 RPI Ranking||36 (out of 328)|
|Returning starters||4 + Libero|
The 2010 season was arguably the most memorable and successful season in the history of the Virginia Tech volleyball program. The Hokies navigated a grueling schedule that included 3 road tournaments and 7 conference matches against the RPI top-50 to finish with a 20-12 overall record. Huge home victories over then RPI #5 Duke and #25 Florida State helped build an NCAA Tournament resume and a thrilling 5-set come-from-behind win over rival UVA secured the postseason berth. The Hokies traveled to State College, PA, where they steamrolled Delaware in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to regional host and eventual national champion Penn State. Senior Felicia Willoughby and sophomore Cara Baarendse both received honorable mention All-America honors, while freshman Victoria Hamsher was named to the ACC's All-Freshman team.
The Hokies play in three home tournaments this season and a total of 19 home matches in 2011, but Tech's schedule will be possibly their toughest ever. Coach Riley is utilizing the same strategy as last season in scheduling quality opponents for out-of-conference games to boost Tech's RPI ranking. The Hokies are home for 13 of their first 18 matches but will have to capitalize on the home court advantage to build up a good NCAA Tournament resume again.
- Indiana at Virginia Tech - August 27th, 7PM - Cassell Coliseum
Indiana will be the first team from the vaunted Big Ten to visit Cassell Coliseum since 1994 when the Hokies split matches between Michigan and Northwestern. The Hoosiers finished last season ranked as high as 18th after falling to USC in the Sweet Sixteen. Indiana lost their top two middle blockers but the Hokies will need to be in top form for this early season matchup against a Big Ten team that plays against the best day in and day out.
- #24 Tennessee at Virginia Tech - September 10th, 7PM - Cassell Coliseum
Tennessee is another team that finished last season in the top 25 but in this matchup the Hokies will have revenge on their minds when the Vols visit Cassell for the Hokie Invite. Tech will look to return the favor after the then #19 Volunteers handed the Hokies their only out-of-conference loss last season in Knoxville. The Lady Vols lost their leading attacker, setter, and blocker from a year ago but have brought in the 4th ranked and 8th ranked recruiting classes in the nation over the past two seasons.
- #17 Duke at Virginia Tech - October 7th, 7PM - Cassell Coliseum
Duke looks to be the favorite to win the ACC after taking home the title last season and advancing to the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils bring back 6'2" senior setter and 2010 ACC Player of the Year Kellie Catanach in addition to All-Americans Christiana Gray and Amanda Robertson. The Hokies will need to put together another strong performance as they did last year when Felicia Willoughby and Cara Baarendse combined for an astonishing 33 kills and zero errors in arguably the most important match of last season.
- Virginia Tech at Florida State - October 28th, 7PM - Tallahassee, FL
Tech faces Florida State in an important match to kick off a 4 game road swing against three of the conference's best. The Hokies nearly pulled of the major upset on the road last season before falling 13-15 in the fifth set in Tallahassee. Finishing the job there this season could provide a major momentum boost going into the meat of the Hokies' conference schedule.
- #5 Erin Leaser - Sr. Setter: Erin has started the last 88 matches at setter and quarterbacks the Hokies' offense. Dual-threat on offense and a strong blocker.
- #10 Cara Baarendse - Jr. Middle Blocker: Cara is the Hokies' best offensive player and virtually unstoppable against a single blocker. First team All-ACC and All-American honorable mention last season.
- #7 Justine Record - Sr. Outside Hitter: Hard-hitting front and back row player. Most dangerous server in the ACC over the past two seasons (99 aces).
- #14 Victoria Hamsher - So. Middle Blocker: Talented offensive and defensive player who will look to replace the production of 3-time All-American Felicia Willoughby. ACC All-Freshman team last season.
The theme for Hokies Volleyball this season should be opportunity. The Hokies could host as many as three or four top-25 ranked teams inside Cassell this season and if they are able to take advantage of those opportunities, we could end up seeing another special season for the program.
Lane Stadium will be quiet for another two weeks so come out and watch the Hokies inside Cassell this Friday at 7pm in their season opener against Cleveland State. Tech returns to action the following afternoon and hosts the Indiana Hoosiers at 7pm Saturday evening (preview here). Admission is FREE to all home matches.