No one will accuse North Greenville coach Fred Battenfield of creating an easy start to the season for his first-year program.
North Greenville announced Wednesday that it will open its inaugural season with back-to-back non-conference matches against the NCAA championship contenders Pepperdine.
“It’s not exactly what I would normally have done for our first match with a brand new program, but I could not pass up the incredible chance to showcase the best in men’s college volleyball right here in the Upstate of South Carolina,” Battenfield said in a statement.
The two-match series will be part of the Carolina Men’s Volleyball Classic, a new annual college men’s volleyball event that will feature North Greenville playing host to a well-known men’s volleyball program. In addition, the season opener against Pepperdine on Jan. 3 will be played on a neutral site at the new $19 million Upward Star Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
This will not only be Pepperdine’s first match versus a Conference Carolinas school in its program history, but its first non-conference match against a NCAA Division I-II team since 2012.
The Waves ended the 2014 regular season winning a share of the MPSF championship and ranked at No. 2 in the national coaches poll. After losing in the conference tournament, though, Pepperdine narrowly missed the final at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in part because its lack of non-conference matches hurt it in the selection committee’s criteria.
Among the nine pieces of criteria used by the selection committee includes non-conference record, overall win-loss record, road record and record at a neutral site. All elements that could benefit Pepperdine in 2015 if it sweeps the two-match series against North Greenville.
Pepperdine returns a majority of starters from last season’s team, including All-American setter Matt West and All-American outside attacker Josh Taylor.
North Greenville, the latest Conference Carolinas school to add men’s volleyball, will have a roster comprised almost entirely of freshmen for the upcoming season.
Battenfiled said in a statement that he is looking forward to the series against Pepperdine, especially the finale that will be played at North Greenville’s on-campus home court.
“In our athletic history, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a top 10 ranked Division I team that has played a regular season match on our campus, and that’s exciting to me,” Battenfield said. “There will be David and Goliath references galore, but I love it; it will be a chance to watch a series of national caliber matches that just don’t happen around our area.”
The relationship between Battenfield and Hall of Fame Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy contributed to the Waves traveling to the Carolina Men’s Volleyball Classic.
Battenfield served as the press attache for the U.S. Men’s National Team when Dunphy was the head coach and guided the United States to the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics.
“There are some great story lines behind this series,” Battenfield said in a statement.