The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi volleyball team will not have to travel far for tough competition, with just six matches on the 2012 schedule coming outside the Texas borders this year. The Islanders will play seven contests against teams that finished last year in the Top 100 of the RPI.
After traveling extensively last season before the start of Southland Conference play, the Islanders will stay close to home, getting not just strong teams to play against, but friendly faces each time they compete.
"I think the biggest advantage of playing three tournaments in Texas to start the year is to be able to have more of our fans and parents come see us than if we took long road trips," said head coach Tony Graystone. "Even though we will be playing in somebody else's gym, there will definitely be a following for us and that'll be good for our kids.
"The season is a grind, so if we can shorten our travel a little bit by staying in Texas, I think that will help us down the road."
The Islanders kick the season off in Waco, traveling to the Baylor Classic starting on Aug. 24. In addition to the host Bears, Tulane and Nevada will also play against Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. The first midweek match comes the following Tuesday, when the Islanders travel to Texas – Pan American on Aug. 28 for a single match against the Lady Broncs.
After that match, the Islanders are back north, traveling to Fort Worth to take part in the TCU Tournament. The first match pits the team against Army on Aug. 31, while playing TCU and SMU on Sept. 1. While in the Fort Worth area, the Islanders will also get a midweek contest in against a former Southland Conference foe, with a Sept. 3 match against UT Arlington.
The final pre-conference tournament starts on Sept. 7, with Texas A&M – Corpus Christi once again traveling to The Metroplex to take part in the Mean Green Invitational, hosted by North Texas. The Islanders play Hofstra and Eastern Michigan the first day, with the final match coming against UNT on Sept. 8. The difficult schedule before the start of Southland Conference play was designed to prepare the team for what will be another tough season in league play.
"It's really tough," said Graystone. "It was tough when we started putting it together, and then at some of these tournament some teams dropped out and new teams came in. It just kept getting harder and harder, and it will be a test every time out.
"Bottom line is we are doing this trying to get ready for conference play. If this schedule doesn't get us ready for conference, nothing will."
The first home match of the year will also be the Southland Conference opener, as the Islanders host Central Arkansas on Sept. 13 to open league action. Two days later, they welcome the Southland's newest member, Oral Roberts, into the Dugan Wellness Center for another league contest.
After a road trip to Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. on Sept. 18, the Islanders return for a home contest against Sam Houston State on the 22nd. Following the single home match, the Islanders return to Louisiana for match number two and three outside of Texas, when they play Nicholls and Southeastern La. on Sept. 27 and 29, respectively.
Due to changes in the lineup of the league, the Islanders will see each team twice this season. In previous years, they played each team in their division twice, and each team from the other division once. With three teams leaving, and just one being added, the Southland moved to a double round robin format for scheduling this season.
"The format is different with everybody doing a home-and-home," said Graystone. "If anybody didn't like division play, we don't have to worry about that anymore, we just slug it out twice and see where we stand. Personally, I'm looking forward to this schedule. There are fewer teams in the conference, but it is going to be really competitive. I think it is pretty wide open."
The first return match of the season will be on Oct. 4, when the Islanders host Northwestern State and follow with a match against Stephen F. Austin on the 6th. Following the two-match home stand, Texas A&M – Corpus Christi will play seven of its final 12 matches on the road, with contests against Lamar, McNeese State, Sam Houston, Central Arkansas, Oral Roberts, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin rounding out the road portion of the schedule.
The Islanders host five home matches in that span, including Lamar on Nov. 8 and McNeese on Nov. 10 to close out the regular season. The team will also play UTPA, Nicholls and Southeastern La. at the Dugan over the last half of the season.
Following the regular season, the 2012 Southland Conference Tournament will be hosted by the Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark. on Nov. 16-18, with the top eight teams advancing to the postseason.