Posted: Jun 14, 2012 2:36 PM by Q2 Sports
Updated: Jun 15, 2012 6:10 AM
BILLINGS - The Lisa Axel era at Montana State University Billings is underway as the Yellowjackets' head volleyball coach has her inaugural season schedule set.
The 2012 schedule features 26 total matches including two early-season tournaments, a full Great Northwest Athletic Conference slate and nine home contests. MSUB will also play two programs for the first time in school history in the two tournaments.
"Our team is very excited for the 2012 season," Axel stated. "Our two preseason tournaments will be a great test to prepare us for our conference schedule. We have the opportunity to play some tough in-region opponents on the road, but our team is excited for the opportunity to travel to Hawaii and Colorado."
A year ago, MSUB started their 2011 season off strong, rattling off four straight wins. They would go on to win 6 of their first nine contests, all on the road, but would then see mixed results through the rest of the season.
Axel is hoping the Yellowjackets can better maintain that higher level of play in 2012 as the Yellowjackets will once again be tested early with their first 10 matches on the road.
That season-beginning stretch will commence with four matches in Hawaii at the Honolulu Invitational. MSUB will play Chaminade University and Fresno Pacific University in on Thursday, Aug. 30 and Friday, Aug. 31 before facing off against Hawaii Pacific University and Sonoma State University on Saturday, Sept. 1.
This will be the first meeting in volleyball between MSUB and Fresno Pacific. Against their other three opponents in Hawaii, the Yellowjackets are 0-3 in their last meetings having last played HPU last season, Chaminade in 2010 and Sonoma State in 2008.
Once back on the mainland, MSUB will travel to Pueblo, Colo. for the CSU - Pueblo Thunderwolves Volleyball Classic Friday, Sept. 7 through Saturday, Sept. 8. The Yellowjackets will open the tourney by taking on host Colorado State University - Pueblo followed by Adams State College, Eastern New Mexico University and the University of New Haven.
The ‘Jackets last played the Thunderwolves in 2007, earning a 3-0 victory while the last time MSUB met Adams State on the volleyball court was 1992 with the Grizzlies claiming the match 0-3. MSUB last played Eastern New Mexico in 2006, claiming a 3-0 win but have never met the Chargers of New Haven.
Following the pair of tourneys to open the season, MSUB will commence their GNAC slate on Friday, Sept. 14 in Bellingham, Wash. against Western Washington University. The Yellowjackets fell 0-3 and 1-3 to the Vikings in 2011 as WWU went on to finish second in the final GNAC standings.
The next day, MSUB travels the short distance north into Canada to take on the Clan of Simon Fraser University. A year ago, the Yellowjackets swept the Clan with a pair of 3-0 matches.
"We start the season on the road for 10 matches which will be tough, but after that, we are looking forward to playing for our home crowd," said Axel. "It should be a very exciting season for us and we are hoping to get people in the stands to watch us perform."
The ‘Jackets will finally have the opportunity to open their 2012 home slate with a three-match home-stand beginning with a Saturday, Sept. 22 match against defending GNAC champions Seattle Pacific University. SPU finished the season last year nationally-ranked with a 21-7 record overall including going 15-3 in GNAC action and two wins over MSUB.
Following their home-opener, MSUB will welcome Northwest Nazarene University and Central Washington University to Alterowitz Gymnasium on Thursday, Sept. 27 and Saturday, Sept. 29. MSUB dropped both matches 1-3 to NNU a year ago and also fell to CWU in their pair of matches with the Wildcats.
MSUB will open the month of October with two matches on the road at Saint Martin's University and Western Oregon University. The ‘Jackets will first travel to SMU on Thursday, Oct. 4 before heading to Monmouth, Ore. to face off against the Wolves on Saturday, Oct. 6.
Last season, MSUB split a home-and-home series with both the Saints and Wolves winning at home in both series, but falling on the road.
The following week, Montana State Billings will play host to the two GNAC schools from Alaska; the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Thursday, Oct. 11 and the University of Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, Oct. 13. The Oct. 13 match against the Seawolves will be the Yellowjackets' annual "Dig Pink Night."
The ‘Jackets split their pair of matches in 2011 with the Nanooks but fell in both matches to the Seawolves. Fairbanks ended the year with just two wins, both in conference, while Anchorage ended the season third in the league with an 18-9 overall record that included going 14-4 in the league.
MSUB will close out the month but open up the second half of the GNAC season with a three-match road swing to SPU, CWU and NNU starting Saturday, Oct. 20 in Seattle. They will then travel to Ellensburg, Wash. on Thursday, Oct. 25 and will end the road-trek in Nampa, Idaho on Saturday, Oct. 27.
The month of November will commence with the Yellowjackets back on their home court, welcoming the Wolves of Western Oregon and the Saints of Saint Martin's on Thursday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 3.
Following the pair of home matches to open November, MSUB will hit the road for the final time in 2012, flying up to Alaska to take on Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks for the second time. The match in Anchorage will be on Thursday, Nov. 8 with the match in Fairbanks on Saturday, Nov. 10.
The Yellowjackets will close out the 2012 regular-season with a pair of home matches against the Clan and the Vikings. Simon Fraser will travel to Billings for a Thursday, Nov. 15 match before Western Washington arrives on Saturday, Nov. 17 for MSUB's "Senior Night."
"I am really looking forward to my first season in the GNAC.," stated Axel. "It is an extremely competitive volleyball conference that will require us to be playing our best every time we step on the court, and that challenge has me excited for the season to start."
Despite losing a few key players over the offseason, the 2012 season proves to be an exciting one for Yellowjacket fans as 10 players will return to the ranks in 2012 with two more being added to the fold. The Yellowjackets are a young and talented group with plenty of raw talent on the team to fill the voids and compete at a high level week-in and week-out.