HOUSTON (July 13) - Year-in, year-out, the Cougar volleyball team routinely plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation. The upcoming 2000 season will be no different.
In addition to the gauntlet, 16-match Conference USA slate, Houston will face no less than eight teams that advanced to the NCAA Championship Tournament in 1999. The Cougar volleyball team has been invited to two prestigious tournaments and will host one of their own to close-out the regular season. Mix in some regional and state non-conference rivals as well as crosstown foe Rice and the 2000 slate should prove to be as exciting as it is challenging.
Head Coach Bill Walton will debut his 2000 team at home in Hofheinz Pavilion September 1-2 against Texas-Arlington. There's not much time to breathe after that. On Wednesday, September 6, UH travels for another meeting with rival Texas A&M. Then it's off to Knoxville, Tenn., for the first of two tournaments at SEC institutions. At Tennessee UH will face the Lady Vols on the road and North Carolina, an NCAA team that 28-6 last season.
The following weekend its off to Fayetteville, Ark., for what may prove to be one of the toughest regular season tournaments in the country. All four teams at the LadyBack Classic, including Houston, went NCAA-Dancin' last season. In addition to the host Arkansas, the Cougars will meet Virginia and Big Ten power Michigan all in a span of 48 hours.
Three days later (Sept. 19), Houston opens its C-USA schedule with National Division rival South Florida on the road in Tampa. UH will later face nationally-ranked Texas at home in Hofheinz Pavilion... and that's just in the month of September!
The C-USA slate, including National and American Division matches, will be in high gear in October. Houston meets Rice in Hofheinz to open the month of November and closes out its C-USA schedule with 1999 NCAA teams Cincinnati (Nov. 10) and Louisville (Nov. 12). Finally, after a three-year hiatus due to quirks in the schedule, the Cougars will get to play Louisville and Cincinnati at home.
The last three winners of the C-USA Tournament, Houston, Louisville and Cincinnati, all meet in Hofeinz to close out the year. Those should be key matches to determine the seeding for the C-USA Tournament that begins November 16 in Charlotte, NC. The Cougars will be back home in time for Thanksgiving and its annual Holiday Tournament that weekend to close out the regular season. SEC power LSU and state rivals SMU and Texas-San Antonio will highlight the holiday action Nov. 24-25 from Hofheinz.
The 2000 NCAA bids will be announced November 26 with first round action beginning as early as Nov. 30. Regional sites are slated for Dec. 7-10 with the NCAA Final Four to be held Dec. 15-17 in Richmond, Virginia.
With a solid nucleus of five players who were counted-on to be starters last season all returning for the 2000 campaign, UH's postseason expectations are again sky-high. The team has proven year-after-year that playing well in the face of a tough schedule gets the attention of the NCAA selection committee. Houston has always played a quality slate under Walton, but 2000 schedule will really open some eyes.