May 30, 2009

Volleyball raises bar with 2009 schedule


GREELEY, Colo. -- Two trips home for a pair of seniors, a home tournament featuring an Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse and matches against every NCAA Division I team in the state highlight Northern Colorado’s 2009 volleyball schedule, which was released Saturday morning by head coach Lyndsey Benson.

Northern Colorado won a school-record 17 D-I matches last season and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference tournament, and Benson and her assistants think the schedule they’ve secured for this season will have the Bears well-prepared for more success.

After starting their quest in late August (August 28-29) with a stop in Denton, Texas, (home of senior Taylor Smith) for North Texas’ Mean Green Volleyball Classic, the Bears will get a chance to knock off the Big 12’s Colorado Buffaloes at Butler Hancock Sports Pavilion (Sept. 1).

A few days later Northern Colorado will roll out the red carpet in hosting the Northern Colorado Tournament, which will include North Dakota State, Eastern Michigan and Miami (Fla.), which finished 26-6 overall and 14-6 in the ACC last season.

Then a mid-September trip (Sept. 11-12) to middle America awaits, as the Bears will be part of this year’s Hawkeye Challenge at the University of Iowa in Iowa City -- about 60 miles west of senior Ashley Lichtenberg’s hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa.

Other nonconference matches include instate trips to Denver (Sept. 22), Colorado State (Sept. 30) and Air Force (Oct. 21).

The Bears will start their conference slate at home against Weber State (Sept. 17) and Idaho State (Sept. 19) before not playing another home conference match until mid-October, when Portland State (Oct. 15) and Eastern Washington (Oct. 17) come calling.

And in an effort to cut travel costs and missed classed time for student-athletes, selected Big Sky road trips this season will feature some short turnarounds. Three of the Bears’ trips this season, for example, will include playing on back-to-back days, when they head to Montana State and Montana (Oct. 9-10), Idaho State and Weber State (Oct. 30-31) and Eastern Washington and Portland State (Nov. 13-14).

The Big Sky season will then wrap up on Nov. 27 and 28 with the Big Sky Conference Championships in Cheney, Wash.

All in all, the Bears will play 12 home matches this season (not including their Alumni Match/Blue & Gold Scrimmage to start the season on Aug. 22) with 18 matches coming away from Greeley.