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Troy volleyball releases schedule

The Troy University volleyball program and head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick have released their 2009 schedule, which includes three tournaments and two home matches against in-state opponents. The Trojans will have nine matches against 2008 NCAA Tournament teams.

The Trojans will open their season on August 28 in Statesboro, Ga. in the Holiday Inn Invitational hosted by the Georgia Southern Eagles.

The following weekend the Trojans will travel back to the Peach State to participate in a tournament hosted by Mercer University in Macon. It’s on this weekend that the Trojans will face their first NCAA Tournament team from last season in the Furman Paladins.

“The two tournaments in Georgia are going to be very well-rounded tournaments that will give us a chance to break in some of our freshman,” said Kirkpatrick.

Troy will wrap up their tournament schedule the following weekend in Oxford, Ohio. The Trojans will take on Pacific, St. John’s and Miami (OH) in the Miami Best Western Invitational hosted by the Redhawks.

The Trojans are no stranger to the Buckeye State as three members of the squad are Ohio natives. Junior libero Emily Strader (Kettering), sophomore outside hitter Laura Mackley (Centerburg) and junior setter Megan Henderson (Cincinnati) will all be making the trip back home.

“The tournament in Ohio presents us a great opportunity to play some top teams. Miami (OH) was a tournament team last year and St. John’s is always in the NCAA tournament picture,” said Kirkpatrick.

Sandwiched between the three tournaments are two matches against in-state opponents. On September 2 the Trojans will travel to Auburn to take on the Tigers.

The home opener for the Trojans will be on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. in Trojan Arena against the Samford Bulldogs.

Following the tournament in Ohio, on Sept. 15, the Trojans will travel to Jacksonville, Ala. to tangle with the Gamecocks.

After a ten day lay off, the Trojans will open their Sun Belt Conference schedule on September 25 when they host the reigning regular season champion Florida International Golden Panthers. The Trojans will also host Sun Belt matches against Florida Atlantic, South Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Orleans, Denver, North Texas, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.

Troy will have road Sun Belt matches against Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, FIU, FAU, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and South Alabama.

“The Sun Belt is becoming a beast in volleyball,” said Kirkpatrick, “We had three teams in the NCAA Tournament last year and we have a good chance to get four or five in this year.”

The Sun Belt had six teams finish in the top 100 in RPI last season. Also, the Sun Belt saw its conference RPI go from 19th in 2007 to 11th in 2008.

In the midst of the Trojans’ Sun Belt schedule is a home match against in-state rival UAB. The Trojans and Blazers will face off on October 20 at 7:00 p.m. in Trojan Arena. Troy will be looking for its first win against the Blazers in Trojan Arena in its seventh try. The Blazers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

“I’m friends with the coaches up there and I have great respect for them,” said Kirkpatrick, “That match is going to be a great measuring stick for us as a program.”

The season will conclude with the Sun Belt Conference Championships hosted by Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky. The Trojans will be looking to advance to their first Sun Belt postseason tournament since 2005.

“I hope the fans continue to support us as well as they have,” added Kirkpatrick, “We’re going to work hard to give them an opportunity to see some great volleyball this season.”