The first West Coast road trip in McKendree’s program history will be quite the challenge.
The Bearcats announced Tuesday it will begin the 2017 season with a four-match Californian road trip against teams that were all in the top 10 of the national rankings.
McKendree will begin the program’s fourth season traveling to Pepperdine for a non-conference match on Jan. 4. In addition, the team later that opening week of the season will play UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Stanford as part of the annual UC Santa Barbara Invitational.
This will be the first time since McKendree joined the MIVA in 2015 that it will not only play an MPSF opponent but also play a non-conference match against a nationally ranked team.
McKendree finished last season in sixth place in the MIVA and upset Ball State in the conference tournament quarterfinals for its first postseason victory in program history. The Bearcats returns a majority of starters after tying a program record with 11 victories in 2015.
“We are ecstatic at the direction the program is heading,” McKendree coach Nickie Sanlin said in a statement. “In our third MIVA season the team has earned the toughest schedule to date playing against the best East and West Coast programs in the country. The increase in our strength of schedule is due to the commitment and dedication that these young men have shown over the past few seasons. As a coach, I am anxious and eager to see what this group can accomplish against the nation’s best.”
Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara all qualified for the eight-team MPSF Tournament last season and finished in the top 10 of the final national coaches poll. The 49ers also narrowly edged out the Cardinal for the final at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
Along with its Californian road trip in the opening week of the season, McKendree the following week will play a two-match road trip against the NCAA Tournament finalists BYU.
The Bearcats’ six road or neutral site matches against MPSF opponents will be among the most non-conference matches versus the West Coast league for any team in the nation during the upcoming season.