FORT MYERS - Head Coach Dave Nichols and the FGCU Volleyball team have announced their schedule for the upcoming 2012 season. The Green and Blue will play 11 home contests, all nine Atlantic Sun foes and travel to the University of Florida, Wyoming and Toledo to participate in a trio of preseason tournaments.
"Our 2012 schedule is nicely balanced, which not only continues our philosophy of playing top 10 programs, but also continues our instate rivalries with USF and FIU and hopefully FAU if the new head coach (Fernanda Nelson, former FGCU assistant coach) will play us," said Nichols. "The rest of the non-conference schedule is a nice blend of tournaments from the West and Mid-West that pit us against some very solid teams from more of the mid-major conferences. We expect the tough pre-conference schedule to prepare us for the ever-improving A-Sun competition."
The challenging 13-game non-conference schedule features games against schools from the BIG EAST, SEC, Atlantic 10, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference (MAC).
FGCU will play five matches against teams that finished in the top 100 in the final 2011 NCAA Volleyball Rating Percentage Index (RPI), while two of those (Florida, Missouri) finished the season in the top 40.
The Green and Blue will kick off the season on the road at the Florida Tournament (Aug. 24-25) where they will take on FAMU, FIU and host Florida. The Gators, who are coming off an Elite Eight run in 2011 and their 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, are the winningest program in the NCAA since Florida head coach Mary Wise's arrival in 1991, earning 19 SEC titles. Florida boasts the highest attendance in the SEC annually and has ranked in the top-10 in the NCAA in nine out of the last 10 seasons.
FGCU then heads west to participate in the Wyoming Tournament (Aug. 31-Sept 1). The tournament field includes George Washington, Missouri, Bethune-Cookman and Wyoming. The Tigers, who entered the tournament as the youngest team in the field of 64, fell in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament to No. 17 Florida, 3-1 (25-23, 16-25, 20-25, 16-25) to finish the year with a record of 21-13. Mizzou's NCAA Tournament appearance was their 10th in 12 seasons under the direction of Wayne and Susan Kreklow.
The Eagles then fly north to participate in the Rocket Classic hosted by the University of Toledo from Sept. 7-8. The Rockets will welcome FGCU along with Memphis and Illinois State to the Glass City for a series of matches. Toledo finished 10-18 last season and returns nine letter winners from last year's squad, including junior middle blocker Dakota Harkins who ranked seventh in the MAC with a team-best .321 attack percentage. Memphis is coming off its most successful season in five years. The Tigers, who posted their most wins (20) since head coach April Jauregui took over, return two-time first team All-Conference USA selection Altrese Hawkins. Illinois State was defeated in three sets (25-15, 25-12, 25-12) by Northern Iowa in the semifinal match of the Missouri Valley Conference Tourna-ment and finished the season 18-14 overall.
Apart from the three tournaments, FGCU will take on USF (Sept. 18), Bethune-Cookman (Oct. 9) and FIU (Nov. 6) in individual regular season matches throughout the year. The Bulls, who made their sixth consecutive BIG EAST Tournament last season, finished the 2011 campaign 12-16 overall. The Panthers posted a 20-10 overall record and an 11-3 BIG EAST mark. They advanced to the conference semifinals as the No. 4seed before falling to No. 1 seed and eventual SBC champion Western Kentucky.
The Green and Blue's Atlantic Sun Conference schedule will begin on Friday, Sept. 21 at Kennesaw State. The Eagles will compete in the double round robin format and face each conference opponent at home and on the road.
North Florida will be the first home A-Sun match, Sept. 25 at Alico Arena. The remaining home A-Sun matches are ETSU (Sept. 28), USC Upstate (Sept. 29), Mercer (Oct. 19), Kennesaw St. (Oct. 20), Stetson (Oct. 27), Jacksonville (Oct. 30), Lipscomb (Nov. 9) and Northern Kentucky (Nov. 10).
Lipscomb and Allen Arena will play host to the Atlantic Sun Championship from Nov. 15-17. The Bisons, the defending three-time A-Sun Champions, have made four NCAA Tournament Appear-ances in the last five years.
Season tickets for the home schedule will be available July 1. An adult ticket for all 11 games is $35,while a youth (3-18 years) ticket is $17. Single game tickets can also be bought at $6 for adults and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can get in for $3 a person. FGCU students and faculty/staff get in free with their student ID.
The 2012 edition of the Eagles returns 11 players, including 2011 Freshman of the Year and second team All-Conference performer Jill Hopper (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown HS). FGCU also welcomes four newcomers to the program, including transfers Court-ney Greenberg (Fort Myers/Fort Myers HS/Jun-iata College), Christine Pinder (Gaines-ville/Buch-holz HS/Houston/Central Florida CC) and Karina Mambuca (Naples, /Gulf-Coast HS/Northeastern).