AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific volleyball head coach Chris Keife has announced the 2011 Azusa Pacific volleyball schedule, which features a set of 4 pre-season tournaments along with an always-challenging 18-match Golden State Athletic Conference slate.
The highlight of the non-conference schedule is a trip to Missouri the final weekend before conference play begins, where the Cougars will take on a pair of last year’s NCAA Div. II national semifinalists in the 3rd Annual Peggy Martin Challenge, hosted by University of Central Missouri. All 3 Cougar opponents in the tournament were ranked in the top 20 of the NCAA Div. II final 2010 poll, including defending Div. II runner-up Tampa (Fla.) and semifinalist Central Missouri. Azusa Pacific concludes the challenging weekend with Emporia State (Kan.), which was ranked No. 18 in last year’s final poll.
“The exciting thing is being able to play in 4 tournaments and have the opportunity to experience a few places we have never been,” said Keife, who became Azusa Pacific’s all-time coaching wins leader in 2010.
The Cougars open the campaign by hosting the Cougar Classic, which this year features 13 participants over 3 days from Aug. 18-20. The following week, Azusa Pacific visits the Bay Area in northern California, playing 4 total matches split between 2 sites (Pacific Union College and Menlo College) Aug. 25-26. Over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 2-3), the Cougars will participate for the fourth consecutive season in the Asics/Crowne Plaza Labor Day Festival hosted by GSAC rival Concordia.
Outside of tournament play, Azusa Pacific has non-conference matchups scheduled at Avila (Mo.) in Kansas City, Mo., on Sept. 7, which leads into the 3-match weekend at the Central Missouri tournament in Warrensburg, Mo., plus a Tue., Nov. 15 matchup at home against California Baptist, a former GSAC member transitioning into NCAA Div. II, to wrap up the regular season.
“Going to Missouri is our big tournament, and it will be a good test for us,” Keife said. “We play some very challenging matches to prepare us for the gauntlet we go through in the Golden State Athletic Conference, and California Baptist at the end of the year should be great for our preparation for the national tournament.”
Following the GSAC home opener against Hope International on Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Cougars visit Concordia and Fresno Pacific in consecutive matches on the road. With California Baptist’s departure from the GSAC, the league schedule is reduced to 18 matches over a stretch of 9 consecutive weeks from Sept. 13 through Nov. 11. Azusa Pacific also closes the GSAC schedule against Hope International with a Friday, Nov. 11 matchup on the road in Fullerton.
Azusa Pacific was 1 of 6 GSAC programs represented in the 20-team field at the final site of the 2010 NAIA Volleyball National Championship, where the national title was claimed by a GSAC team for the seventh time in the past 8 seasons when Fresno Pacific claimed its fourth consecutive crown. The GSAC has produced at least 1 NAIA semifinalist in 19 consecutive national tournaments, and the conference has been represented in each of the past 8 NAIA title matches.