Lees-McRae to travel to Hawai’i for 2018 non-conference tournament

Lees-McRae picked the farthest possible place it could travel after years of staying on the East Coast for all its non-conference matches.

The ConfCarolinas school as part of recently unveiling its entire 2018 schedule announced that it will play at Hawai’i in an early-season non-conference tournament during the upcoming season.

The Bobcats will open the event with a match against the host school Rainbow Warriors on Feb. 1. It also will play Sacred Heart and the Canadian college Thompson Rivers at the event in Honolulu.

This will be the first time since 2014 that the Bobcats have traveled farther west than Ohio. It also will be the first matches for Lees-McRae outside of the Midwest and East Coast since 2011 when it played in a non-conference tournament at Grand Canyon.

Lees-McRae last season ended a two-year postseason drought as it finished in fifth place in he ConfCarolinas and reached the conference tournament quarterfinals. In addition, the team played its final home matches of the season in an elementary school gymnasium after its home area was destroyed in a fire.

Among the starters returning for the Bobcats in the upcoming season includes outside attacker Wes Rogman.

Rogman earned Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Freshman of the Week honors in 2017 after having a season-high 16 kills in a late-season victory versus Belmont Abbey.

Hawai’i advanced to the NCAA Tournament semifinals last season — the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last three years. In addition, All-American opposite Stijn van Tilburg highlights the starters returning for Hawai’i.

van Tilburg as a sophomore ended the regular season third in the nation with a 4.32 kills per game average and was the 2017 recipient of the Bryan Ivie Award, which is presented to the nation’s top opposite.

Hawai’i is undefeated all-time against ConfCarolinas schools.

This will be the second of two announced non-conference matches for Hawai’i versus ConfCarolinas teams in the opening weeks of the 2018 season. Hawai’i also will play the defending ConfCarolinas champions Barton in January at the Off the Block Grow the Game Challenge presented by MotorMVB.