Tiger Volleyball Announces 2004 Schedule
April 27, 2004
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis volleyball team, coming off a 30-6 season and its first-ever appearance in the Conference USA Finals, will face three defending conference champions and a series of opponents with familiar faces during the fall 2004 schedule announced Tuesday.
The Tigers will open the season at home with their own tournament, which features Tennessee State, Alabama A&M, Delaware State and Illinois-Chicago. Alabama A&M finished with a 20-4 mark last year and is the four-time defending SWAC champ, while UIC will be led by former USF Head Coach Nancy Mueller. Mueller left USF for UIC during the off-season. The tournament will open the schedule Sept. 3-4 in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
Memphis will then depart for a trip through Utah, home of senior setter Heather Watts and sophomore Jennie Toronto. The Tigers will start the Utah trip at Weber State, Sept. 8th, then will travel to BYU to participate in the BYU Invitational. The Cougars of BYU have appeared in 21 of the last 23 NCAA tournaments, and will also offer Memphis a chance to face former Southern Miss head coach Santiago Restrepo, who is now the head coach at Oklahoma. Restrepo, who was senior Tiara Gilkey's coach in club ball, and his Sooners will be one of just four non-conference matches for the Tigers in the tournament. Memphis will also face defending Atlantic Sun and future C-USA member UCF at the BYU tournament. UCF advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championships with a win over Cincinnati in last year's tournament before falling to No. 3 ranked Florida. The Tigers will also face Utah Valley State at the tourney.
The Tigers will host a pair of matches on Sept. 14th. The Tigers will face Division II foe Central Arkansas at 4 p.m. before hosting Arkansas State at 7 p.m. UCA features a familiar face for one of the Tigers, as senior Heather Watts will have an opportunity to square off against her younger sister, Hilary. Hilary Watts is a sophomore defensive specialist for the Bears, who finished 7-5 in the Gulf South Conference last year.
It will be a short trip down to the Tigers' third tournament, as Memphis travels to Starkville to participate in the Mississippi State tournament, Sept. 17-18th. In that tournament, Memphis is slated to face Mississippi State, Eastern Kentucky and Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs will be in their first year under former player Michelle Durbin, who came to MSU from Alabama during the off-season.
The Tigers will hop on a plane and head for North Carolina to round out the pre-season, with a non-conference match at Davidson, a team Memphis faced in a tournament last year, before traveling to Greensboro, N.C., to participate in the UNC Greensboro tournament. At the UNCG tourney, Memphis will face Florida Atlantic, UNC Asheville, Morgan State and host UNCG.
The Conference USA schedule will open against Saint Louis, Oct. 1st, in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. The Billikens will be without retired head coach Marilyn Nolen for the first time in league history. Nolen was inducted into the inaugural AVCA Hall of Fame Class in 2003 on her retirement from SLU. Memphis then hits the road for its first conference road competitions, playing at Southern Miss, Oct. 8th, and at Tulane, Oct. 9th. Tulane and the Tigers last squared off in the second round of the Conference USA tournament in New Orleans, where Memphis ended Tulane's run in the league tournament with a 3-1 win, their second 3-1 victory over the Green Wave in seven days.
East Carolina and Charlotte will venture into Memphis, Oct. 15-16th, before Memphis hits the road for three straight road matches, starting at Ole Miss, Oct. 19th, and at C-USA defending tournament champ, Louisville, Oct. 22nd. Memphis will round out a difficult road swing at defending regular season co-champion, Cincinnati, Oct. 23rd, before returning home for a non-conference match against Middle Tennessee, Oct. 26th. Middle Tennessee is another opponent with a new head coach, as Matt Peck, who guided Division II North Alabama to last year's NCAA Championship title brings his 291-41 career record to Division I and Murfreesboro.
Memphis will then host Marquette and DePaul for the final time as C-USA foes, Oct. 29-30th, before traveling to UAB and USF the weekend of Nov. 5-6. The Tigers will close out the schedule at home against TCU and Houston, Nov. 12-13th, with the Houston match being senior night for setter Heather Watts and outside hitter Tiara Gilkey. The Conference USA tournament will be Nov. 19-22nd and will be hosted by Louisville in their final year in the league.
Tiger Head Coach Carrie Yerty will be entering her 9th season at the helm of the Memphis program. Last year's .833 winning percentage was the best in school history and the 2003 Tigers became just the second-ever Conference USA to hit the 30-win mark. Only two other Tiger teams had more wins, both of them coming when college volleyball played 50-60 regular season contests.
The Tigers will return all but two players from the 2003 squad. Seniors Brittany Barnett and Shella Neba will graduate from Memphis on Saturday after helping Memphis to an 84-45 mark over their four-year careers. Heather Watts and Tiara Gilkey will make up the 2004 senior class, while the junior class will consist of Nancy Nellans, Kristen Hardee and Fehi Tuivai. The sophomore class will be made up of Christen Clayton, Melissa Nance, Hristina Slancheva, Emily Steckel and Jennie Toronto. The Tigers signed two student-athletes for the fall of 2004. For information on the Tigers' 2004 recruiting class, please see the University of Memphis official website at www.gotigersgo.com and select news archives on the volleyball main page.
Memphis could add two more matches to its 2004 schedule. For more information, please follow the Tigers' website at www.gotigersgo.com.