LUBBOCK, TX - Trish Knight has recorded 676 wins in 16 years at Missouri State-West Plains in amassing a nearly 80 percent winning ratio on the college level, but seeks her first win at the Division I level on Friday evening, August 28 at 6:30 p.m., when the Red Raiders meet host Creighton University in the season opener for both squads at the Bluejay Invitational.
Tech's seven returning players team up with seven newcomers to form the 2009 version of the team and expectations are punctuated with somewhat of a question mark.
"I think there's no question that we have some strong athletes who are gelling as a team, but let's be honest, we're new to each other and we are learning a new system and a new approach," Coach Knight said. "This team has to learn about me and my expectations, has to learn about each other and has to learn how to walk into volleyball environments and perform well consistently. I think the simplest thing for me to say is that we're looking forward to competing and to seeing where we are."
Competing will be a must at the Bluejay Invitational where the three teams the Red Raiders face are all coming off stellar 2008 campaigns. Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth begins her seventh season at the helm of the Bluejays, after an 18-9 season and second-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference left them knocking on the door of the NCAA postseason. The Bluejays return eight, including four starters.
On Saturday at noon, Tech will face a Tulane team which had an overall 28-6 record and won the Conference USA crown en-route to a berth in the tournament. A new coach, long-time Tulane assistant Sinisa Momic, took the reins for the Greenwave and adds five new players to the nine returning members of the 2008 team.
Following that match and a short break, the Red Raiders face pre-season No. 10 Illinois which was 26-8 in 2008, finished third in the Big 10 and had a sweet-16 finish. The Illini return 11 players and all six starters, but do feature a new coach, Kevin Hambly, in his first year with the program and at the Division I level as well. Match time is 5 p.m. on Saturday evening.
"The Bluejay Invitational features a great group of teams and will be a challenge for us. We've been working very hard and we see improvement with each practice," Coach Knight said. "Competitors want to get out on the floor and see where they measure up and this tournament will allow us to do that. And, it's a chance for me to see how hard we compete, which is what I'm asking of every member of this team."
A new coach, a new season, and a new team -- it seems only fitting that the opening match will be played in a new arena as Friday evening also marks the regular-season debut of D.J. Sokol Arena (capacity 2,950) on the campus at Creighton in Omaha, Neb.