Lees-McRae in upcoming season will not only play its first non-conference match against a MPSF school this decade — it will face two MPSF opponents on back-to-back nights.
The Conference Carolinas team announced recently on its athletics department website that it will play neutral site non-conference matches versus Stanford and UC Santa Barbara in March at Penn State.
Lees-McRae under first-year coach Henry Chuang spent the majority of last season with less than 12 players on its active roster and finished in last place in the Conference Carolinas. However, the Bobcats return most of their starters and added an incoming recruiting class that includes a member of the USA Volleyball High Performance program and a high school all-area selection.
Both Stanford and UC Santa Barbara finished last season in the top 10 of the national rankings and were among the teams in contention for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford graduated All-American setter James Shaw, the 2016 Lloy Ball Award winner, and All-American middle attacker Conrad Kaminski, 2016 Ryan Millar Award winner, after ending the 2016 season in fourth place in the MPSF. The Cardinal still have several starters returning from last year’s team, including All-American libero Evan Enriques who won the Erik Shoji Award for the nation’s top libero.
UC Santa Barbara last season upset Stanford in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals and reached the conference tournament semifinals for the second time in the last three seasons. Despite graduating its All-American setter Jonah Seif, the Gauchos return all-conference opposite Matt Marsh.
This will be the first all-time meeting for Lees-McRae against both Stanford and UC Santa Barbara.
Lees-McRae has not played a MPSF school since losing a road match to CSUN in 2008. The team, though, beat Cal Baptist at the 2012 Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic when the Lancers were in the process of transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II status.