The Nicholls State University volleyball team is hoping to find prominence in 2016 after inking a decorated recruiting class in the offseason.
But to find that success, the Colonels had better be good on the road.
Because that’s where they’ll be for a lot of their season.
Nicholls volleyball coach Tommy Harold released the Colonels’ volleyball slate this past week – a 32-game slate that will begin in less than a month when the Colonels compete in the Samford Invitational in Birmingham, Alabama.
The schedule is road-heavy. The Colonels will play all-but one non-conference game away from Thibodaux.
But Harold said it’s by design, because it will allow his team to mature and grow before the back-end of the schedule where the games matter most.
“I am excited about the start of the season and getting back in the gym with our players,” Harold said. “The pre-conference schedule should help us prepare for the rigors of Southland play.”
The Colonels will log some travel miles early in their season.
At the Samford Invitational, the Colonels will battle Samford and South Alabama on Aug. 26 before taking on Indiana State in the final day of the event.
Against Samford, the Colonels will get a pretty accurate depiction of where they stand. The Lady Bulldogs were 15-12 last season, including a 10-6 mark in the Southern Conference.
Along the way, they posted a 2-1 record against Southland schools, beating Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State and losing to Houston Baptist.
After the opening tournament, the Colonels will return home for their only home match of the non-conference schedule – a meeting with Southern on Aug. 30 at 6:30 p.m. in Stopher Gymnasium.
After that short run at home, Nicholls will embark on an 11-match road trip, which will take the team to Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Jacksonville, Florida and Jacksonville, Alabama over a 15-day period.
The time in both Jacksonville’s are part of multi-day tournaments – one hosted by the University of North Florida and the other by Jacksonville State.
After that stretch, Nicholls will begin Southland play on Sept. 22 – a home match with Central Arkansas.
In league play, Nicholls will enjoy a four-match home-stand from Oct. 20-29, facing Lamar (Oct. 20), Houston Baptist (Oct. 22), Southeastern Louisiana (Oct. 27) and the University of New Orleans (Oct. 29) – all in Stopher Gym.
For Nicholls, the key to 2016 will be picking up where 2015 left off.
The Colonels win just nine matches last season under Harold, but a lot of those victories came in the back-half of the season as the young, inexperienced team gelled on the floor.
Nicholls won three of its final four matches to end last season, trumping Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian and Southeastern in the final weeks to close the season with a bang.
With several contributing returnees off that squad, including Kali Schwartz and Kaci Eaton, among others, Harold said he thinks the Colonels have a winning mix in 2016.
The team also had one of its most decorated recruiting classes in recent years, signing several top recruits who are expected to see immediate playing time on the floor in the fall.
“I think we have a good mix of challenging teams on the schedule that will push the team as we do our best to get our incoming players up to speed with our core of returning letter winners,” Harold said.
SOCCER UNVEILS CHALLENGING SLATE
While volleyball travels the Gulf South for its non-conference slate, Nicholls soccer will never leave Louisiana.
The Colonels soccer team released their 2016 schedule this past weekend – the first season of games for the team under new coach Mac McBride.
The rookie Colonels coach said the team’s goal is to use non-conference matches to learn the system. By Southland play, the team plans to be playing its best soccer, McBride said.
“Of course, conference play is where the results really count,” McBride said. “Taking into consideration historical results, there appears to be a fair degree of parity within the conference and that makes conference play an exciting prospect for us.”
The first game of the McBride Era will be Aug. 26 – a home match against cross-state rival UL-Lafayette. After that, Nicholls will face Southern two days later, also in Thibodaux.
From there, Nicholls will travel to face UL-Monroe and Grambling before rounding out non-conference play at home with Louisiana Tech.
Nicholls begins league play on Sept. 16 at home against Lamar.
McBride said he’s curious to see how his team responds to the new scheme and coaching they’re receiving.
“The first five games of the season afford us the opportunity to find our feet before Southland Conference play,” McBride said. “It will be interesting to see how well we gel as a team during this preparatory phase.”
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