FORT MYERS, Fla., - The FGCU volleyball team opens up the 2008 season at the North Carolina Central Tournament in Durham, N.C. FGCU will open the year with a doubleheader on Friday as they open up with Maine before facing UNC Asheville.
“I am really looking forward to see how well the team has picked up the new systems we have put in place,” said Head Coach Dave Nichols. “We get a chance to see what areas will be strength for us and what we need more work on. I think that the players are excited to play a real match and get on the court and just play.”
The tournament features eight teams in two pools. FGCU is in a pool with Maine, UNC Asheville and Elon. The other pool consist of host North Carolina Central, Campbell, UNC Charlotte and Eastern Illinois. The tourney concludes with a consolation and championship at 3:00pm and 5:00 pm respectively.
Maine returns seven seniors including a pair who have earned All-American East Conference honors. The Bears finished the season with a 4-23. The Eagles face Maine at 11:00 for the first of two matches. The two schools have never met before in any sport. Later in the afternoon, FGCU will face UNC Asheville. Last season, FGCU met the Bulldogs in the season opening FSU Invitational and FGCU easily won 30-9, 30-21, 30-12. The Bulldogs finished with a 12-22 record on the season and return five starters. FGCU will be facing Elon at 12:00 on Saturday before hopefully entering the championship round. FGCU faced Elon last year at the JMU/Days Inn Invitational and swept Elon in three games, 30-17, 30-17, 30-18. Elon went on to finish with a 17-16 record and advanced to the Southern Conference Tournament.
The Eagles were selected to repeat as Atlantic Sun Champions and return three starters from last season’s 23-3 team. Two starters were first team All-Atlantic Sun performers in Roberta Santos and Player of the Year Ana Kokanovic. Kokanovic led NCAA Division I in aces and set a new A-Sun record for aces in a match, conference season and regular season. Santos was among the league leaders in nearly every statistical category. She also was named MVP of three consecutive tournaments last season.
The Eagles will be back in action again next Thursday when they take on nationally ranked New Mexico State in the opening round of the New Mexico State Tournament.