The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi volleyball team held its final practice at home on Wednesday before the start of the season in Starkville, Miss., on Friday morning. The Islanders have a travel day and will hold the final preseason practice at the Newell-Grissom Building on the campus of Mississippi State at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.
"I feel better now than I did maybe last Friday or Saturday," said head coach Tony Graystone. "We've had a couple of good workouts.
"Today will be the last chance to clean some things up, and I think we'll be ok."
The Islanders will play Montana and UALR on Friday in the Mississippi State Maroon Classic and will face the host Bulldogs and Austin Peay on Saturday to wrap-up the tournament.
The first opponent, Montana, comes into the year with five returning starters in addition to the libero. The team finished 14-14 last season with a 10-6 record in Big Sky Conference matches to finish fourth in the league. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
UALR returns two starters from the 2009 team that finished 16-14 overall and 10-8 in Sun Belt Conference matches to place third in the West Division. The team features a large number of international players with five on the roster, including three from China, one from Brazil and one from Latvia. It will also be the first meeting between the two teams.
Mississippi State finished with an identical overall record as the Islanders last season at 9-22. The hosts were 5-15 in Southeastern Conference play finishing in fifth place of the West Division. The Bulldogs return four starters plus the libero from a year ago. It will be the first meeting between the two teams and just the third-ever match against an SEC opponent for the Islanders. They are 0-1 against both LSU and South Carolina in the program's history.
Austin Peay went 22-9 last season and finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 15-3 mark. The Lady Govs also return five starters from the 2009 team. It will be the second meeting between the two programs, with Austin Peay winning the first match by a 3-0 score last season when they hosted the Islanders in the Lady Govs Classic.
"The tournament is actually pretty tough to start off the season," said Graystone. "All of those teams had RPIs which were much higher than ours last season.
"We know we are up against some more established programs, but I think we need to do this to continue building our program and are ready for it."
The team has progressed a great deal since the beginning of preseason camp two weeks ago and is looking forward to competing against an opponent instead of teammates in practice.
"We are definitely a team," said Graystone. "They get along well, chemistry is good and leadership is coming along.
"We just have to get everybody playing well at the same time. Once we do that we look pretty good. It'll be nice to go against some different competition and get all of us on the same side of the net at one time instead of against each other."
The first match of the tournament will be at 10:30 a.m. against Montana, followed by a 5:00 p.m. match against UALR to end the opening day of the season.
Live stats will be available on www.goislanders.com.