BUTTE — For the first time, the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge won't be played at the Butte Civic Center.
With sets for Yellowstone: 1923 currently being built at that location, Tech's annual season-opening tournament will unfold at two sites — Butte Central's Maroon Activities Center and Tech's HPER Complex.
Splitting the tournament — which begins Thursday and ends Saturday — between two locations adds an extra layer of complexity, but the Orediggers are still ready to get the season underway.
"Very much looking forward to it," said Tech head coach Brian Solomon. "We're at the point it'll be nice to test ourselves against some really high-quality teams."
Tech was ranked No. 13 in the preseason poll following a 2021 campaign that saw the Orediggers advance to the NAIA National Tournament final site in Sioux City, Iowa for the fourth time under Solomon. But they won't be the highest ranked teams in Butte his weekend.
Four Top 10 teams will be competing, including Tech's first opponent, No. 9 Viterbo University (La Cross, Wisconsin) who the Orediggers open their season against on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the HPER Complex.
Tech, which went 23-10 overall and 7-3 in Frontier play last season, will head into that Top 25 match after enjoying a full offseason as opposed to 2021 when Tech played a spring season then immediately began preparing for the fall.
"It was a great break," said Solomon. "The normal cycle was a great break to reset and recalibrate. We had time to address certain things with our offseason training, our recruiting. And now it's coming to fruition so we'll see where we stand."
Tech graduated four seniors including all-conference outside hitter Karina Mickelson. But filling in is a class of seven seniors, the largest senior group for the Orediggers in recent memory. Within that group is Corvallis product Maureen Jessop, an outside hitter who earned an NAIA All-American honorable mention last season.
Tech plays four matches at the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge before traveling for the remainder of the preseason. The Orediggers kick off the conference season on Sept. 23 at Providence.
"We hopefully want to get through these next four weeks healthy," Solomon said. "That's a lot of playing, that's a lot of games and matches."