The season starts three weeks from tomorrow! And what better way to get hyped than to check out the schedule of our upcoming opponents. Here are some first impressions. (I’ll obviously have more to say during game weeks!)
- 2019 features 28 matches during the regular season. This is the first year since 2012 that Tennessee hasn’t scheduled at least 30 matches. In 2017 the team only played 27 regular season games, because three scheduled matches were cancelled due to weather issues.
- UT will play 13 matches at home and 15 on the road.
- Tennessee will play four out of conference matches this year against teams from so-called “Power Five” conferences. That’s the most on the schedule since 2012. (Not that the designation has much relevance to volleyball, but it’s still a somewhat interesting stat!)
- The Lady Vols have seven matches vs teams who finished in the 2018 AVCA Coaches Poll: #3 Illinois (twice), #10 Kentucky, #11 Florida, #23 Missouri (twice), and #24 Baylor.
- The team has ten matches vs teams who made the 2018 NCAA Tournament: Illinois (Final Four, twice), Cincinnati (Second Round), Florida (Sweet Sixteen), South Carolina (Second Round), Baylor (Second Round), ETSU (First Round), Missouri (Second Round, twice), Kentucky (Sweet Sixteen).
- Tennessee will play Illinois in back to back matches. However, unlike last season when the Lady Vols travelled to California to play San Diego twice in two days, these matches vs the Illini will be played home and away. Since at least 1981, UT has never done that against a non-conference opponent. Only twice in that time have they ever played the same non-conference opponent in back to back matches (the aforementioned San Diego games).
- Tennessee will open the season vs a ranked opponent for the sixth time in school history — and the second time in a row. They are 2-3 in those matches.
UT VS RANKED OPPONENT IN SEASON OPENER 1983 #9 Arizona State W, 3-1 1993 #12 Colorado L, 3-0 2007 #1 Nebraska L, 3-0 2012 #12 Florida State L, 3-0 2018 #22 Michigan State W, 3-1 2019 [2018 #3] Illinois
- While it’s dangerous (and bad luck!) to call any schedule “easy”, due to unbalanced SEC scheduling, UT has one of the more favorable conference schedules possible. Of the top seven teams in the league (besides the Lady Vols), Tennessee only has to play two of them twice. The other five UT will only face once — and three of those will be home matches.
- The Lady Vols will face two new opponents for the first time in program history: Georgia Southern and North Dakota State.
- UT has faced a fellow state school all but four seasons of their existence: 2006, 2011, 2012, and 2017. The tradition continues with the ETSU match in 2019.
- While not as bad as last season, the starting time of home matches this year is still something you’ll want to double check for each match. UT has five Friday matches this year, all but one of which start at the earlier than usual 6:30 (the other is at 8:00). There are four Sunday matches, starting at 1:30, 1:30, 2:00, and 3:00. And two Wednesday matches start at 5:00 and 7:00.
- In the past ten years the Lady Vols have played eight times on the day before Thanksgiving, with (thankfully!) all but one of those matches being played here in Knoxville. They have a 6-3 record. The team will again play on Thanksgiving Eve here at home in 2019, this time vs Auburn.