The Southland Conference released its revamped schedule for the upcoming Spring 2021 volleyball season on Monday afternoon with the Sam Houston Bearkats set to kick off its league slate in February at Johnson Coliseum.
With all 13 Southland institutions sponsoring volleyball, the 12-match league slate is now scheduled to begin for SHSU on February 4 in Huntsville against Northwestern State. The Kats will host six matches at home, while also going on the road six times to complete the round-robin format.
The schedule is set to continue through March 27 with a four-team, single-elimination championship at the site of the top seed set for April 2-3.
“As coaches we have had many discussions about the best way to schedule for this year, and I think we have done the best job that could be done,” head coach Brenda Gray said. “The way it is set up, it gives each team four matches and then nearly two weeks off, which helps to buffer for having to deal with any COVID issues along the way.”
After the Kats open at home against NSU on February 4, they will close out the weekend two days later with a home match against Central Arkansas. They will not host another match on the Coliseum floor for a month, next getting Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (March 4) and UIW (March 6) at home before closing out the regular season with Stephen F. Austin (March 25) and Abilene Christian (March 27).
Road matches for SHSU are set to include a road swing at New Orleans (Feb 11) and Southeastern Louisiana (Feb 13) before a weekend swing at Houston Baptist (Feb 25) and Lamar (Feb 27). The road slate is set to conclude with a trip to McNeese (March 18) and Nicholls (March 20).
“It’s nice to finally have a schedule in place and be out of limbo, giving our girls something more definitive to look forward to,” Gray said. “We are in the midst of training right now and feel really good about the team that we have in place for this year. I think our experience should lend well for us coming into this year, especially in a format that is likely not going to include a non-conference schedule.”
Gray’s team is coming off a strong 2019 season that saw the Kats pick up 19 wins and finish second in the Southland, advancing to the championship match of the SLC Tournament. They also received a berth in the NIVC, the team’s first postseason appearance since 1996, and took down Houston in four sets in the opening round.
On August 12, Southland presidents approved the postponement of fall conference competition, with the intent to explore conference schedules in the spring semester, and later signed off on an opt-out opportunity for programs focused on fall participation. A spring schedule for participating football and soccer teams was announced in recent weeks.
Like all Southland sports, the volleyball schedule will be contingent upon current health conditions in each university community, following guidance from the NCAA and local medical authorities. Game management details, ticketing and attendance matters, media and broadcast issues and other operational details will be determined by the Southland and the host institutions.