Six non-conference matches against teams likely to be nationally ranked highlights Lewis’ 2012 season as the team Wednesday released its regular season schedule for the upcoming season.
Lewis finished last season No. 13 in the final coaches poll and lost to the NCAA champions Ohio State in the MIVA Tournament semifinals. Flyers coach Dan Friend has six starters returning for last year’s team, including First-Team All-MIVA outside attacker Jay Petty.
Check out the five things to take away from Lewis’ schedule for the 2012 season.
Five things to know about the schedule
1. Increased difficulty of non-conference schedule
The Flyers will play five non-conference matches against MPSF teams — the most matches they have played against the MPSF in a single-season since 2005. Lewis will open its season with a two-match road series against Pepperdine before traveling to play Hawai’i and UCLA at the Outrigger Invitational in Hawaii. It also will take a West Coast road trip in March to play Long Beach State in the Active Ankle Challenge. This schedule will be a significant increase in travel from previous seasons. The last two years Lewis had played a combined four road matches against MPSF teams. In addition to these matches against the MPSF, Lewis will play non-confernece matches against Cal Baptist and Penn State, the 13-time defending EIVA champions.
2. Change of pace to open the season
The season will open for Lewis with five of its first six matches against teams — Pepperdine, UCLA, Hawai’i and Penn State — that will likely be ranked in the preseason top 15 coaches poll. This will be a change for the Flyers as they have in recent years opened their seasons with matches against unranked teams or Division III teams before playing national ranked teams. Lewis last season begin its schedule with three road matches against Conference Carolinas teams and home matches against Lindenwood and Carthage. The 2012 schedule marks the earliest time in the season Lewis will have a match against a national ranked team since playing BYU in the first week of the 2009 season.
3. The 2012 Outrigger Invitational
For the first time in seven years, Lewis will play in the four-team Outrigger Invitational at the beginning of the season. Lewis will open the three-day tournament with matches against UCLA and Hawai’i, which both finished last season ranked in the nation’s top 10. Lewis and Springfield will play each other on the final day of the invitational. Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade said last week that he makes sure to reserve a spot in the tournament each year that rotates between the top MIVA teams. Wade also said in recent years Lewis has moved up on his list of teams to invite because of its success.
4. Ball State vs. Lewis rivalry renewed
Lewis has its geographical rivalry with Loyola. However, there is not much of a question in Romeoville, Ill., on who the Lewis men’s volleyball team despises the most: it’s Ball State. The rivalry in the last five seasons has featured everything from a player having to be restrained from starting an on-the-court fight during a match to Ball State eliminating Lewis from the MIVA Tournament in the 2007-09 seasons. It’s no secret in the MIVA that these teams dislike each other and emotions are high on both sides when they play each other. Lewis and Ball State will play its MIVA regular season matches against each other on Feb. 4 in Muncie, Ind., and April 6 in Romeoville.
5. Lindenwood and possible MIVA expansion
Lewis traditionally plays a non-conference match against Lindenwood every season, but scheduling two non-conference matches against each other could be a sign of things to come for the MIVA. Lindenwood, located in Saint Charles, Mo., is transitioning from the NAIA to Division II and could become a fully NCAA member by the 2013-14 school year. Lindenwood advanced to the NAIA national semifinals last season and traditionally has been one of the best NAIA men’s volleyball teams. The school would geographically be an ideal fit to join the MIVA. These two non-conference matches and the non-conference matches Lindenwood played last season against other MIVA schools like Ball State and Loyola are signs that Lindenwood could eventually join the MIVA.
Lewis regular season schedule
7 p.m. Jan. 4 vs. Windsor (Exhibition)
7 p.m. Jan. 7 at Pepperdine
5 p.m. Jan. 8 at Pepperdine
Jan. 12 vs. UCLA (Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu)
Jan. 13 at Hawai’i (Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu)
Jan. 14 vs. Springfield (Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu)
7 p.m. Jan. 21 vs. Penn State
7 p.m. Jan. 27 vs. St. Francis
7 p.m. Jan. 28 vs. George Mason
7 p.m. Feb. 3 at IPFW*
7 p.m. Feb. 4 at Ball State*
7 p.m. Feb. 11 vs. Alumni (Exhibition)
7 p.m. Feb. 12 vs. Loyola*
7 p.m. Feb. 17 at NJIT
7 p.m. Feb. 18 at George Mason
7 p.m. Feb. 23 vs. Ohio State*
7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Lindenwood
7 p.m. Feb. 28 vs. Mount Olive
7 p.m. March 1 vs. Quincy*
7 p.m. March 9 vs. Cal Baptist (Active Ankle Classic in Long Beach, Calif.)
7 p.m. March 10 vs. Long Beach State (Active Ankle Classic in Long Beach, Calif.)
7 p.m. March 13 vs. King College
7 p.m. March 16 vs. Limestone
7 p.m. March 17 vs. Lindenwood
7 p.m. March 23 vs. IPFW*
7 p.m. March 27 at Loyola*
7 p.m. April 1 at Ohio State*
7 p.m. April 3 at Quincy*
7 p.m. April 6 vs. Ball State*
7 p.m. April 12 vs. Grand Canyon*
7 p.m. April 14 vs. Grand Canyon*
*Denotes MIVA match
[Editor’s note: All match starting times are local times.]