Mercer Volleyball Unveils 2010 Schedule
MACON, Ga. – A trip west for the University of Washington Invitational and the seventh annual Bear Brawl highlight Mercer volleyball's 2010 schedule, as announced by head coach Noelle Rooke. Aside from four demanding non-conference tournaments, the 2010 Atlantic Sun schedule is a single-round of contests, a departure from the recent home-away format.
Over the last two seasons, the A-Sun has used a double-round format for conference opponents, each school meeting its league opponents at home and on the road. This season, for the first time since 2007, Mercer has only one crack at each A-Sun foe.
"The change in our conference schedule provides the additional opportunities for preseason tournaments and non-conference matchups," Mercer head coach Noelle Rooke said. "In preparation for this year's schedule, I attempted to put together a balanced schedule featuring both elite teams and teams with comparable RPI's to ours."
The season's first contest pits Mercer against Cal Poly at Washington's Invitational on Aug. 27 in Seattle. The Bears are also slated to face Pac-10 powerhouse Washington, Eastern Washington and Seattle University at the two-day event.
Last season, Washington rose as high as No. 3 in the AVCA Coaches Poll before falling in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Colorado State. Eastern Washington finished the season No. 116 in the national RPI rankings after compiling an 18-11 record in 2009. Seattle looks to rebound after last season's 7-20 campaign.
Following its trip to Seattle, Mercer returns to the southeast for a battle at Auburn on Sept. 1. The matchup with the Tigers marks the third-consecutive year Mercer has traveled to Auburn. The teams have split the last two contests.
On Sept. 3-4, Mercer hosts its annual Bear Brawl non-conference tournament. This year's field includes Presbyterian, UT Martin and The Citadel.
Next up after the Bear Brawl is a mid-week test at in-state rival Georgia State on Wednesday, September 8. In 2008, Rooke guided her team to the program's first win over Georgia State before falling to the Panthers last year. In 2010, Georgia State begins a new era under recently-hired head coach Tami Ores. Ores came from the University of Maryland, where she served as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for the Terrapins.
After the match with Georgia State, Mercer's schedule includes two more non-conference tournaments before beginning conference play. On Sept. 10-11, the Bears participate in the North Carolina State Tournament with Morehead State, NC State and Georgia Southern.
Both Georgia Southern and Morehead State posted 21-win seasons in 2009 and seem poised to break into the nations' top-100 teams this fall. NC State aims to improve upon last year's 8-27 mark.
The final non-conference tournament comes at South Carolina State on Sept. 17-18. Mercer also squares off with North Carolina Central and Hampton at the event.
Sandwiched in between the final non-conference tournaments is a trip to Florida A&M on Sept. 14. The road match against the Rattlers marks the first of a road-home, two-game set with the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champions. FAMU travels to Macon for a clash in the University Center on Oct. 23.
Other non-conference opponents include Savannah State, UNC Asheville and UNC Wilmington. Mercer faces both Savannah State and UNC Asheville at home and on the road. Savannah State invades Macon on Sept. 18 while the Bears return the favor on Oct. 26 with a trip to Savannah. Mercer's home match against UNC Asheville on Sept. 28 marks the final tune-up before conference play starts at Lipscomb on Oct. 2. Mercer tangles with the Bulldogs once more on Oct. 19 in Asheville.
On Oct. 31, the Bears are slated to meet UNC Wilmington in their final non-conference test of the season.
"One of my goals is to let my players regain the confidence that they experienced a couple of season ago," Rooke said. "It's simple; everyone knows that winning builds confidence."
All told, Mercer is prepared to face nine opponents who finished 2009 ranked among the nation's top 125 teams based on RPI.