A home match against the defending EIVA champions Penn State and a road trip to Grand Canyon highlights the NJIT 2012 regular season schedule that the team released Monday.
The Highlanders finished last season in last place in the EIVA Hay Division and failed to make the EIVA Tournament. NJIT has all seven starters returning for the upcoming season, including libero Brady Smith who finished last season in the nation’s top 10 for digs per game average.
Check out the five things to know about NJIT’s schedule for the upcoming season.
Five things to know about the schedule
1. Tougher non-conference schedule
Unlike last season when the Highlanders scheduled a significant amount of Division III and NAIA teams in the non-conference, they will have more matches against the MIVA and Conference Carolinas in 2012. NJIT will play two non-conference matches against Division III and NAIA teams in the upcoming season — a five match decrease from 2011. NJIT scheduled seven matches against teams from the MIVA, including home matches against Lewis on Feb. 17 and Loyola on Feb. 18. Both Lewis and Loyola finished last season ranked in the top 15 coaches poll. NJIT ended last season 6-14 in non-conference play but was 1-5 against Division I-II teams.
2. Penn State at home
NJIT will have a home match against the 13-time defending EIVA champions Penn State on March 23 as part of its 14-match conference season. The Penn State-NJIT series is one of the oldest matchups in EIVA history dating back to Penn State’s first year of existence in 1977, but it is a lopsided series with the Nittany Lions having a 28-1 all-time advantage. However, the Highlanders’ lone victory against the Nittany Lions remains one of the greatest upsets in East Coast men’s volleyball history. NJIT at home defeated Penn State in four games during the 1998 season — one of the three times an East Coast school defeated Penn State from 1994 to 2000. Penn State since that upset has not lost to NJIT and has only dropped two games against the Highlanders.
3. Closing with the EIVA
If the Highlanders make the 2012 EIVA Tournament it will be largely because of their late-season success. NJIT will close out its regular season with nine consecutive EIVA matches from March 23 to April 21. In addition, four of these matches will be against teams that reached the EIVA Tournament semifinals last year — Penn State, George Mason and Rutgers-Newark. The EIVA in May changed its structure by expanding the conference season from 10 to 14 matches. It also reduced the EIVA Tournament from seven teams to four teams. NJIT has not reached the conference tournament since 2008.
4. Grand Canyon Invitational
After a one-year hiatus, NJIT will once again travel west of the Mississippi River to play a match. The Highlanders will open their season in the inaugural Grand Canyon Invitational on Jan. 13-14. NJIT during the two-day non-conference tournament in Arizona will play three matches — two against the host school Grand Canyon and one against UC San Diego. This will be the first time NJIT has traveled to Grand Canyon, which is entering its fourth year of existence. The Antelopes defeated the Highlanders last season in the first meeting between the two teams. The NJIT and UC San Diego match at the invitational will also be the first match between the schools and the first time NJIT has played a MPSF team since 2010.
5. Conference Carolinas road trip
NJIT for the second consecutive season will have road matches against Conference Carolinas teams. NJIT will play Lees-McRae and King as part of a three-match road trip in mid-March. The Conference Carolinas is entering its third season as a men’s volleyball conference and will become eligible for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2014. NJIT finished last season 2-1 against Conference Carolinas teams, including going 1-1 on the road and losing at home to Lees-McRae.
NJIT regular season schedule
9 p.m. Jan. 13 at Grand Canyon
5 p.m. Jan. 14 vs. UC San Diego (at Grand Canyon Invitational)
9 p.m. Jan. 14 at Grand Canyon
5 p.m. Jan. 20 vs. Hunter (at Golden Dome Classic)
7 p.m. Jan. 21 at Rutgers-Newark
7 p.m. Jan. 31 vs. NJCU
7 p.m. Feb. 3 vs. New Haven
7 p.m. Feb. 10 at St. Francis*
7 p.m. Feb. 11 at Penn State*
7 p.m. Feb. 15 vs Rutgers-Newark*
7 p.m. Feb. 17 vs. Lewis
7 p.m. Feb. 18 vs. Loyola
7 p.m. Feb. 21 vs. Sacred Heart*
7 p.m. Feb. 25 vs. Pfeiffer
7 p.m. March 2 at IPFW
7 p.m. March 3 at IPFW
7 p.m. March 9 vs. Princeton*
7 p.m. March 15 at Lees-McRae
7 p.m. March 16 vs. Quincy (at Bristol, Tenn.)
7 p.m. March 17 at King
7 p.m. March 23 vs. Penn State*
7 p.m. March 24 vs. St. Francis*
7 p.m. March 31 at Harvard*
7 p.m. April 6 vs. George Mason*
7 p.m. April 11 vs. Rutgers-Newark*
7 p.m. April 13 vs. Harvard*
7 p.m. April 14 at George Mason*
7 p.m. April 18 at Princeton*
7 p.m. April 21 at Sacred Heart*
*Denotes EIVA match
All times EST