|Buchanan announces 2014 slate|
MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho volleyball coach Debbie Buchanan announced a challenging 28-match 2014 regular season schedule Thursday, featuring two matches against RPI top-5 teams from 2013, six against the top 75 and 11 against the top 110.
The schedule is highlighted by a home tournament with matches against Missouri, Boise State and Portland and also includes tournaments at Florida, UC Irvine and Washington State and a 16-match Big Sky Conference schedule featuring 11 conference opponents and eight home Big Sky matches.
Idaho’s first eight opponents in 2014 combined to go 182-68 (.728) in 2013. The Vandals open the 2014 season on Aug. 29 against Oklahoma at Florida’s Active Ankle Challenge. Idaho will take on Florida later that day and face Georgia Southern on Aug. 30. All three opponents in the tournament reached the 2013 NCAA tournament, and Georgia Southern was the only one not to advance to the round of 32.
“We’ve never been afraid of scheduling,” Buchanan said. “You can schedule easy and go for the wins, but if the matches aren’t good RPI-wise, depending on how you finish in your conference it’s not going to help you. Our philosophy has been to play teams that are going to help our RPI. We’ve got to work to knock off some of those teams in the preseason to get some significant wins.”
Idaho will visit Long Beach State then head to the UC Irvine tournament to face UC Irvine, Utah State and Pepperdine Sept. 4-6. All four opponents that week finished in the top-110 of the RPI in 2013, with Pepperdine (71), Long Beach State (80) and Utah State (81) well inside the top 100.
The Vandals will host the Idaho Tournament Sept. 11-13, facing Missouri on Sept. 11, Boise State on Sept. 12 and Portland on Sept. 13. Missouri completed an undefeated regular season in 2013, and went 35-0, reaching a No. 4 national ranking before losing in the NCAA tournament to finish with a 35-1 overall record, the best in the NCAA in 2013.
Idaho’s final non-conference tournament is Sept. 18 and 19 at Washington State where the Vandals will face the Cougars and Loyola Marymount.
“Playing a top team isn’t going to hurt us,” Buchanan said. “If we get those wins, it’s really going to help us. Then if you win your conference, you’re going to have an opportunity to get a better overall seed in the NCAA tournament. We’ve always looked at going on the aggressive side and playing some top teams because I think we can compete with them, and it will help us prepare for our conference schedule.”
The Vandals open their first Big Sky season since 1995 when they visit Northern Colorado on Sept. 25. Idaho’s first home conference match is Oct. 2 against Northern Arizona, and the Vandals host four straight Big Sky matches between Oct. 16 and Oct. 25 when Montana (Oct. 16), Montana State (Oct. 17), Weber State (Oct. 23) and Idaho State (Oct.25) visit Moscow.
The Big Sky will have two divisions for volleyball in 2014, and Idaho will play division foes North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State twice, while facing opponents from the other division -- Northern Arizona, Portland State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah, Weber State and Idaho State -- once each.
“Every match counts,” Buchanan said. “You have to go out and compete every single time because if you let one match go and you only play that team one time it can hurt you in the end. We’re going to have to make sure we’re prepared. We have to take every match seriously and make sure we’re playing at our level every single opportunity that we get.”
Idaho’s regular season finale is Nov. 15 at home against Northern Colorado, and the 2014 Big Sky Tournament is Nov. 20-22, hosted by the regular-season champion. The Vandals won four Big Sky championships in their last four years in the league from 1992-1995 before joining the Big West Conference in 1996.
“We want to win. We want to win in preseason, we want to win the conference tournament,” Buchanan said. “We’re hoping that we can host it here and have that home-court advantage and try to get to the NCAA tournament.”