|Buchanan announces VB schedule|
MOSCOW - The Idaho volleyball team will start off the 2012 season with a home tournament, and face a formidable non-conference schedule to get ready for a new-look Western Athletic Conference, as head coach Debbie Buchanan released the team's 2012 schedule Tuesday.
The Vandals will open the season at home with the Idaho Nike Invitational on Aug. 24 and 25 in Memorial Gym. Idaho's season-opener is the 24th against Pacific, and the Vandals face regional rivals Montana and Washington State on Aug. 25 to wrap up the tournament.
"It's great to be able to open up at home," said Buchanan, the reigning WAC Coach of the Year. "We're going to be home quite a bit more than last year, which will be huge. Especially opening up at home, we can try to get the kids off to a good start before we start traveling."
The Vandals will then hit the road with four matches in California from Aug. 30-Sept. 3, as they face Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, Northeastern and Cal State Northridge. Idaho's next task will be to take on defending national champion UCLA, 2011 Sweet Sixteen participant Hawai'i, and San Diego State in the Hawai'i Volleyball Tournament Sept. 7-9.
"We're trying to set this up with a good balance of teams with high RPI, and good competition for us," Buchanan said. "We could go out and play an easy schedule and get a bunch of wins, but that's not going to help us. We want to prepare our kids from the very beginning that this is the type of competition that we need to play at. These are the teams that we can beat, or it's going to be a battle. There really aren't any easy matches out there. We've got to show up and compete every match."
Idaho opens WAC play at home against Denver on Sept. 13, one of the five teams to join the league for the 2012 season. Idaho's 18-match WAC schedule features home-and-home series with the nine other WAC schools, including New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State, Texas State, UT San Antonio, Seattle, UT Arlington, Louisiana Tech and Denver.
With Hawai'i, which won or shared the WAC regular-season title every season since 1996, and claimed 10 of 11 WAC tournament titles since 1998 (there was no WAC tournament in 1999 or 2000), now out of the league, Buchanan said the Vandals, along with every other WAC team, are looking for an open competition for the WAC crown.
"We've added some good opponents with five new teams coming in," Buchanan said of Denver, Seattle, Texas State, UT San Antonio and UT Arlington. "There are some good volleyball schools. It's on everybody's mind that Hawai'i is out now and that leaves it open for all of us to try to get the championship. It's not that we weren't trying to do that before, but Hawai'i was always ranked in the top 10 in the country every year. We've always had good competition at the top, and now it's just opened things up, and everyone is thinking the way we are, they want to win championships."
After a two-year stint in Las Vegas, the WAC tournament will move to San Antonio, Texas Nov. 18-21. The top eight teams in the final regular season standings will advance to the tournament.