A decade after meeting in the NCAA Tournament finals Fort Wayne and UC Irvine will once again face other on the court.
The Mastodons as part of recently releasing their 2017 schedule announced it will begin the upcoming season with a road non-conference match against the Anteaters on Jan. 3.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams since UC Irvine beat Fort Wayne in four games to win the 2007 NCAA championship. The Anteaters following that first national title in program history have won three more championships in the last 10 years, while the Mastodons have not returned the NCAA Tournament.
Both Fort Wayne and UC Irvine enter the upcoming season after finishing in eighth place in their conferences last season.
Fort Wayne under first-year head coach Rock Perrotte and with a lineup primarily comprised of first-year starters earned the final berth to the MIVA Tournament last season and lost in conference tournament quarterfinals. Among the Mastodons’ returning starters includes outside attacker Tony Price, who was among the team leaders in 2016 with both a 2.54 kills per game average and a 1.45 digs per game average.
UC Irvine one-year removed from winning the MPSF championship and reaching the NCAA Tournament ended an injury-plagued 2016 season with a loss in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals. The Anteaters, though, return All-American opposite Tamir Hershko, who missed the majority of last season with an injury.
Along with their match against the Anteaters, the Mastodons will conclude their season-opening West Coast at the Asics Invitational at UC Santa Barbara.
Fort Wayne will compete in the annual non-conference event for the third time in the last four seasons. The Mastodons are a combined 2-2 in their two previous appearances in the Asics Invitational.