May 12, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The 2013 National Champions, four Sweet 16 teams, six NCAA Tournament qualifiers and the return of the Big 5 Challenge highlight the 2014 Villanova volleyball schedule, as announced by head coach Josh Steinbach as he enters his 8th year with the program for the 2014-15 academic year.
Steinbach is once again set to challenge his squad with a tough non-conference schedule in preparation for BIG EAST Conference action which begins September 24th against St. John's. The 2014 slate is arguably Villanova's most difficult during Steinbach's tenure, which includes the Penn State Nittany Lions who are the defending 2013 NCAA National Champions.
"It will be an exciting preseason for us," says Steinbach. "We get to grade ourselves against some of the top teams from a year ago."
August 29th marks the season opener for Villanova who will travel to Harrisonburg, Va. for a three-match series hosted by James Madison. The Wildcats will face Charleston Southern on Monday the 29th and will take on Norfolk State and JMU just a day later on Tuesday, August 30th to open the 2014 season.
The Wildcats will be on the road again for the second consecutive week when they travel to San Diego, Calif. on September 5th and 6th. The Wildcats open on Friday night at Sweet 16 participant San Diego before moving across town to face CSU Fullerton and host San Diego State on Saturday, September 6th.
Following their consecutive away weekends at JMU and SDSU, Villanova returns to open the home portion of their schedule on September 9th when they host Lehigh at 7 p.m. in the Jake Nevin Field House.
The Mountain Hawks will prep the Wildcats for the stacked field that awaits them in the Villanova Classic on September 12th and 13th, set to take place in Jake Nevin Field House on the Villanova University campus. Three Sweet 16 squads and last year's Ivy League champion in Yale, American, Kansas and Penn State make up the 2014 Villanova Classic to highlight the annual event on the Wildcats calendar. The Jayhawks went 12-4 in the BIG 12 on their way to a second place finish in the conference while Yale clinched an NCAA Tournament bid after finishing 13-1 in the Ivy League and 20-5 overall. The Nittany Lions posted a 34-2 overall record before being crowned the 2013 National Champions.
Steinbach states, "Obviously Penn State is a tough opponent and it should be a fun match to have in Jake Nevin. Our tournament field is incredible and I'm hopeful that the Villanova students and local community will take the opportunity to come out and see some great matches."
Following a road contest against Delaware on September 16th, Villanova and its Philadelphia area rivals return for the Big 5 challenge on September 19th and 20th, following a one year hiatus. A Friday night showdown at Penn tips off the tournament as the Wildcats try to improve upon their 4-3 record versus the Quakers during Steinbach's tenure. Villanova will also compete against Temple and La Salle at Jake Nevin Field House on Saturday, September 20th as part of the two-day event.
"The Big 5 is a great event. We look every year to be the best team in our area so winning the Big 5 event is a big goal for us," said Steinbach. "The matches are tough because we play those teams every year and sometimes every spring as well. It is a good weekend to get us ready for our conference schedule as the rivalries in town are almost like our conference rivalries."
Similar to last year's format, each of the BIG EAST volleyball teams will play a double round-robin schedule for a total of 18 conference matches, with home-and-home competitions against each of the other nine league members. This year Providence rejoins the BIG EAST after calling the America East their conference home for the past 12 seasons.
Villanova begins their BIG EAST slate with three home contests against St. John's (Sept. 24), Seton Hall (Sept. 27) and Providence (Sept. 30) before traveling to Xavier (Oct. 3) and Butler (Oct. 4) for the first half of conference action. Five of Villanova's last seven matches are on the road with trips to Creighton (Nov. 21) and Georgetown (Nov. 23) capping off the season.
Steinbach states, "The BIG EAST just keeps getting better. The league returns almost 80% of its starters from a year ago, and so while we return a majority of our team and we hope to climb the conference standings, everyone else returns a lot as well. It's going to be a very challenging league on a nightly basis."
The Wildcats return 13 players from last year's squad including five starters and four role players that appeared in at least 60 sets in 2013. Incoming freshmen Allison Fitzgerald and Cara Cunningham will also look to make an immediate impact as they join a group of seasoned returners for the upcoming season.