April 7, 2009
ATHENS, Ohio -
Winners of five Mid-American Conference Tournament titles in the last six years, the Ohio University volleyball team released a challenging 2009 schedule on Tuesday that will serve as the road map for the Bobcats’ latest title defense.
Ohio is coming off of a 24-8 campaign that saw them win the fifth MAC Tournament crown in program history, as well as extend the second-longest streak of consecutive NCAA Championship appearances in league history to six-straight years. With six starters (including the libero) and nine letterwinners back from a squad that extended the Bobcats’ school-record streak of 20-win seasons to seven in a row, Ohio’s schedule will feature a total of 10 matches against teams that qualified for the 2008 NCAA Championship. In addition to its top-notch non-conference schedule, the Green & White must also contend with a 16-match conference slate within the MAC, which sent a pair of teams to the NCAA Championship as at-large selections last year.
The teams on Ohio’s schedule for the 2009 season combined to post a 420-354 (.543) record last season, while the Bobcats’ non-conference foes alone piled up a 245-174 (.585) mark a year ago. During the 2009 campaign, Ohio will also face 10 teams that won at least 20 matches last season.
The Green & White will also face four teams from the Big Ten (Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin), traditionally a powerhouse conference in women’s college volleyball. The Bobcats’ matchups with Purdue and Illinois – both NCAA Championship teams from a year ago that finished in the top-15 of the final AVCA Coaches Poll – will come on a marquee final weekend in West Lafayette, Ind., prior to the start of MAC play.
“This is a very difficult schedule that was built to challenge an experienced and talented team,” Ohio head coach Ryan Theis said. “We wanted to play around seven teams that qualified for the NCAA Championship last year, and we ended up with a few more than that because we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add quality competition to our schedule. Our non-conference schedule is competitive every weekend, so this season, perhaps more than any other in Ohio history, will provide challenges week-in and week-out.”
The Bobcats will open the 2009 season with a trip to Madison, Wis., where they will square off with South Dakota, NCAA Championship participant Duke and Wisconsin on consecutive days from Aug. 28-30. A stretch of three matches in two days at a tournament hosted by NCAA qualifier Middle Tennessee State awaits Ohio from Sept. 5-6 before Ohio makes its season debut at the Convocation Center against Indiana on Sept. 11. The Bobcats will also host Eastern Kentucky and defending Colonial Athletic Association champion Delaware on Sept. 12, as well as defending Missouri Valley champion Missouri State on Sept. 13, to round out the lone home tournament of the 2009 campaign.
Following its contests with Purdue and Illinois on the Boilermakers’ campus, Ohio will play host to Kent State and Central Michigan on Sept. 24 and 26, respectively, to kick off the MAC season. The Bobcats’ home league schedule will feature visits from Bowling Green and Miami on Oct. 9 and 10, as well as Toledo (Oct. 16), Ball State (Oct. 17), Buffalo (Nov. 6) and Akron (Nov. 7).
“The MAC has gotten significantly stronger over the course of the last few years,” Theis said. “Qualifying three teams for the NCAA Championship last year was significant, especially so when you consider the fact that all three teams were competitive. It shows that our conference is right on par with some of the more renowned conferences, and that means that there are no easy wins in MAC play.”
After the grueling MAC regular-season schedule, the Bobcats will enter MAC Tournament play, opening the conference tourney with a first-round match at a campus site if necessary. The league’s top four teams will receive a bye to the quarterfinals at the SeaGate Centre in Toledo, which will be held from Nov. 20-22. Following the MAC Tournament, Ohio will wrap up the regular season with a visit to Dayton, an NCAA Championship participant from 2008, on Nov. 27.