August 9, 2009

ISLANDERS BEGIN PRACTICE AS THEY READY FOR 2009 SEASON

The 2009 version of Islander volleyball will have a new look on and off the court and will face a challenging schedule. The Islanders start the season on the road before returning home to Dugan Wellness Center, the new home of the Islanders. The facility opened in January and will be the new permanent home for all volleyball matches. The Islanders will play host to teams in one of the finest facilities in the Southland Conference.

With a new home court comes a new head coach. Tony Graystone will be starting his first season with the Islanders and brings with him a very successful record. His record of 315-61 makes him one of just four coaches under the age of 40 with 300 career wins. He also has the distinction of being the fastest coach to ever reach 100 career wins, doing so in 106 matches.

The Islanders begin practice this week with the goal of bettering last years record and competing against the tough non-conference schedule as well as the Southland slate.

"I'm expecting us to work as hard as we can and improve everyday." said head coach Tony Graystone. "We're going to get ready for the start of the season to go out and win as many matches as we can."

TAMUCC begins the season at the Sun Bowl Invitational, hosted by UTEP in El Paso. The Islanders open the season on August 28 against Norfolk State. The next day, they play the host, UTEP, in the first match of the day before finishing the weekend off against Texas Southern.

Following a midweek game against Texas-Pan American, the Islanders travel to Des Moines, Iowa to participate in the Hampton Inn Drake Invitational on Sept. 4-5. First up in the tournament is Valparaiso, followed by Centenary on the 4th. The following day, TAMUCC takes on host Drake and finish the tourney against South Dakota.

In the second week of Sept. they travel to Houston for the HBU Husky Classic on the campus of Houston Baptist University. The Islanders play matches against Penn and Cal State-Bakersfield on the 11th and take on the host the following day.

The final tournament of the season for TAMUCC comes in Nacogdoches as they participate in the SFA Ladyjack Invitational, hosted by Southland Conference foe Stephen F. Austin. The Islanders play against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 18 and follow that up with a pair of matches on the 19th against SFA and Alcorn State.

With the tournament schedule finished, the Islanders move onto SLC action, going on the road for the first two conference matches of the year. On Sept. 24, they take on Texas State in San Marcos and follow that with a match two days later against UT Arlington on Sept. 26.

"You find out a lot about not only the character but also the personality of your team when being on the road early in the season," said Graystone. "I'm looking forward to it, if the whole team gets on board, we will be fine."

The Islanders return home to host their first match of the season, a non-conference tilt against Texas-Pan American on Sept. 29. It is the first of six straight matches at home for TAMUCC. The Islander play only three matches away from home during the entire month of October. They host UTSA on Oct. 3, Sam Houston on the 8th, Lamar on the 10th and SFA on the 12th.

A road trip to Lake Charles, La. to take on McNeese State on Oct. 17 breaks up the home schedule before returning for another pair of matches on their home court. They host Central Arkansas on Oct. 22 and Northwestern State on the 24th. The final two matches of the month come against Lamar in Beaumont of Oct. 30 and in Huntsville against Sam Houston on Oct. 31 in a Halloween matchup.

The next three matches are also on the road before returning home for the final two matches of the season. The Islanders travel to San Antonio on November 3rd to take on UTSA before traveling to the eastern edge of Louisiana. They play in Hammond, La. on Nov. 6th against Southeastern Louisiana and follow it with a match the very next day in Thibodaux, La. against Nicholls State.

The final home stand comes against UT Arlington and Texas State. On Nov. 13, the Islanders host the Mavericks of UTA. The next day, TAMUCC will play its final match of the season against the Bobcats of Texas State. With a new coaching staff and many new faces on the team, the 2009 version of the Islanders promises to be an exciting team to watch as they look to improve their record and finish from a season ago.

With the new season nearly here, Graystone is working with all the players to help improve their technique and bring them all together as a team.

"We have to get them in the habit of repeating things that are going to help them win everyday and expect better results out of themselves everyday," said Graystone. "We have to get the new players to come in and hit the ground running and get on board with what we are trying to implement as well."

"It has not been as hard as it sounds, the returnees really want to have a good year and are working to make the most out of it."