Bears Volleyball Releases 2006 Schedule
May 10, 2006
GREELEY, Colo. - A full Big Sky Conference schedule, five matches against 2005 NCAA Tournament teams and a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time at the Division I level are just some of the highlights of the 2006 University of Northern Colorado volleyball schedule which was released by head coach Lyndsey Benson on Wednesday.
The Bears, who finished 2005 with a 14-16 overall record and fourth place finish at the Division I Independent Championships, will compete in early season tournaments at national power Arizona, Atlantic Coast Conference foe N.C. State and 2005 Horizon League Regular Season Champion UW-Milwaukee. The Bears will play five teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season (Arizona, Sacramento State, Sienna, Winthrop and Wisconsin) and a pair of teams (Arizona and Wisconsin) who made it all the way to the Elite 8 last year and should start this season in the preseason top 10.
The slate also includes nine regular season home matches in the newly renovated Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (a place the team has won 35 of its last 38 matches) and a 16-match Big Sky Conference schedule.
"We are so excited to be playing in the Big Sky Conference this year," said Benson, who is entering her second season as head coach and fourth year overall with the program. "We have doubled our home matches from last year to this year, which will be great for our team since we play so well in Butler-Hancock.
"Our travel schedule will be very tough. We will play two top 10 teams (Arizona and Wisconsin) as well as two conference tournament champions (Siena, Winthrop) from last season. We start the season with a very tough weekend, but our group of student-athletes is use to that. A lot of travel and tough competition is what this team knows."
The conference schedule begins on Sept. 14 when Northern Arizona comes to town for a 6 p.m. match. The Bears also host Montana State (Sept. 28, 7 p.m.), Montana (Sept. 30, 7 p.m.), Idaho State (Oct. 12, 7 p.m.), Eastern Washington (Nov. 2, 7 p.m.), Portland State (Nov. 4, 7 p.m.), Weber State (Nov. 9, 7 p.m.) and Sacramento State (Nov. 11, 7 p.m.) in Big Sky play.
Northern Colorado is fortunate that the final four matches of the regular season before the Big Sky Tournament are all home matches, giving the Bears a needed edge if a tight race ensues. The Big Sky Tournament will be held Nov. 16-18 at the regular season champion. If the Bears win the event, they will advance to their first ever Division I NCAA Tournament; the team made 15 appearances in the NCAA Tournament when they competed at the Division II level.
"To have the chance to play for a conference championship is huge for the morale of our team," Benson said. "We have a tangible goal that means something if we attain it. We could be headed to the NCAA tournament in our first year of eligibility. The Big Sky is a good volleyball conference, but we are not that far off from our goal of winning it in the near future."
Northern Colorado is 13-15 all-time against current Big Sky Conference teams.
Northern Colorado will also play eight matches against teams that won 20 or more matches in 2005 as well as matches against in-state rival Air Force (Oct. 24 at The Academy) and regional rival Wyoming (Oct. 18 at home).