UTM v-ball to host tournament in 2011
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 12:02 am
MARTIN, Tenn. – One thing that The University of Tennessee at Martin head volleyball coach Darrin McClure has wanted to do ever since he was hired in 2008 was host his own tournament in Skyhawk Fieldhouse. Next fall, that vision will become a reality, as the First State Skyhawk Invitational headlines UT Martin’s 2011 schedule.
“We have always traveled to tournaments and this year the tournament just happened to fit right in our schedule,” said McClure, who will enter his fourth season at the helm in 2011. “If it weren’t for this tournament, we wouldn’t be at home until the last part of September. Also we will miss less class by being at home for this tournament.”
The tournament is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3 and includes UAB out of Conference USA, Illinois State from the Missouri Valley Conference and Stephen F. Austin from the Southland Conference. Each team will play two matches throughout the day Friday before concluding with a match on Saturday afternoon.
“The tournament field is scattered with good, solid teams,” McClure said. “It will make for a competitive environment and will prepare us for Ohio Valley Conference play.”
Before hosting the tournament, however, UT Martin will open its season in Starkville, Miss., in a tournament hosted by Mississippi State of the Southeastern Conference.
After the First State Skyhawk Invitational, the Skyhawks will travel to Alabama A&M for a mid-week match before making the trek to Kansas City, Mo. to take part in a tournament put on by UMKC of the Summit League.
Less than a week after that, UT Martin starts league play with a four-match road trip before returning home to face Southeast Missouri in its OVC home opener on Sept. 30. That triggers a stretch where the Skyhawks play five straight OVC matches at home and eight of their next 10 league matches in Skyhawk Fieldhouse.
“The OVC schedule shapes up for us to be competitive,” McClure said. “After starting on the road we have back-to-back weekends at home. With our early non-conference tournament experiences, we feel we will be able to compete and hopefully come out with some good quality wins.”
Following short road trips to Murray State and Southeast Missouri, the Skyhawks host in-state foes Austin Peay and Tennessee State before ending the regular-season with road matches on Nov. 11-12.
One interesting aspect felt not only by UT Martin but throughout the entire league is the official addition of SIU Edwardsville to the league and the changes that creates in travel.
“SIU Edwardsville is a good addition to the OVC,” McClure said. “They bring a unique dynamic in that it changes our travel partners on the weekends and what we have been used to for so many years.”
With several tough non-conference opponents lined up in 2011, McClure thinks that his schedule is just part of the movement throughout the OVC to become stronger as a whole.
“As a conference, we would love to mold after the MVC or Sun Belt,” McClure said. “Over the last couple of years they have earned at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament. The OVC can build up that same way – it starts at each individual school to help boost our RPI.”