(Editor’s note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Head coach Casey Williams has announced the full 30-match schedule for MSUB’s 2019 volleyball season.
The Yellowjackets lead off with four games in the Chadron State Tournament at Chicoine Center in September. The team opens with South Dakota School of Mines and Technology along with University of Sioux Falls on September 6, followed by Fort Hays State and Chadron State on September 7.
“I think that the competition in the Chadron State tournament will be similar to the level we saw last year in the first week,” commented head coach Casey Williams. “Last year we got off to a great start and I think any opportunity to get mentally focused and play opponents similar to our level is good. Hopefully we can gain some confidence leading in to the west region crossover.”
The following weekend, the ‘Jackets travel to San Diego, California for the Division II west region crossover. There, they will see action against Chico State and UC San Diego on September 12, followed by California Irvine on September 13 and Academy of Art on September 14.
“The way they structure the west region crossover is always difficult,” Williams said. “Some of the teams we’ll see in San Diego are really solid but I’m looking forward to the challenge and it will be a good test for us early in the season.”
MSU Billings plays its home opener against Concordia University in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference on September 19 at 7 p.m. at Alterowitz Gymnasium. Continuing play on Saturday, September 4, MSUB hosts Western Oregon.
“I think we tend to match up well with Concordia so that is a good team to start out with,” said Williams. “They are a scrappy team like us and usually we end up very close with them in the final standings. Western Oregon will have a new coach this year so we’ll see what they bring.”
The Yellowjackets travel across town to face rival Rocky Mountain College at Fortin Center on Monday, September 23, then travel north and west to play Alaska and Alaska Anchorage on September 26 and 28 respectively.
“I think our players look forward to our rivalry games against Rocky every year,” Williams said. “It’s always fun to play in front of a big crowd and our fans come out to the game so we really appreciate their support.”
MSUB squares off at home against defending conference champion Western Washington at home on Friday, October 4, then plays Simon Fraser the next day in a 2 p.m. matinee. A trip to the Pacific Northwest in the second week of October has the ‘Jackets pitted against Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene on October 10 and 12. Then they return to Billings for five games, culminating in the longest homestand of the year.
“It will be nice to come back home for a little while after a difficult couple of weeks in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest,” said Williams. “It definitely helps our mentality to be able to have a longer stretch of practices at home. We have two of our most difficult trips early in the schedule so it will be nice to come back and hopefully win some games at home in October.”
Saint Martin’s comes to town on October 17, followed by Seattle Pacific on October 19. A rematch against the Rocky Mountain Battlin’ Bears is set to take place at Alterowitz Gym on Tuesday October 22 after MSUB lost a pair of five setters in 2018 to their arch rivals. Then both GNAC Alaska schools make the trip down to the Magic City to finish off the month of October. MSUB hosts the Seawolves on October 24 and the Nanooks on October 26.
The Yellowjackets have away contests at Simon Fraser November 1 and Western Washington November 2. MSUB plays Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington in the second week of November. On November 9, the ‘Jackets will honor the seniors in the last home match of the year November 9 against the Wildcats.
The regular season ends with four games on the road. The Yellowjackets play Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin’s November 14-16. Western Oregon and Concordia are their final opponents on November 21 and 23. Should the ‘Jackets qualify for the NCAA Division II West Region Championships, the postseason begins on Thursday, November 15 and concludes on November 17. MSUB last made the region tournament in 2006.
“We are always competitive with Western and Concordia so to play them at the end of the year should be interesting,” Williams noted. “I think we have the opportunity to end the season on a high note before the west region championships.”
In total, the 30-match schedule features 11 home dates with eight neutral contests and 11 road matches. The ‘Jackets have three home 2 p.m. starts on Saturdays at Alterowitz Gym this season on October 5, October 19, and October 25. The ‘Jackets play at 1 p.m. on November 9 for senior day. All other home sets are slated for 7 p.m. starts.
Last season, the Yellowjackets improved their record for the third straight year under head coach Casey Williams and finished 13-17 overall, 7-13 in the GNAC. With a sophomore heavy class in 2018, the Yellowjackets are hoping to build on last season’s performance with a plethora of returning players.
“We have the potential to bring back four returning starters this fall which is a luxury we haven’t had the last couple years,” Williams said of the 2019 team. “There will be some new players that we hope to make an immediate impact as well but our dominant players last year are our returners this year so the goal is to continue to build on what we’ve started the last few seasons.”