BLACKSBURG, Va. – The Virginia Tech volleyball team is set to open the 2014 season this weekend, traveling to Lexington, Kentucky for the Bluegrass Battle. Tech will face Butler in the opening match at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29 at Memorial Coliseum.
The Hokies and the Bulldogs will join host-team, No. 19 Kentucky and Wichita State for the two-day event.
Virginia Tech returns five starters and its starting libero from last season’s team that finished with a 22-12 overall record while going 10-10 in the ACC. Senior Kathryn Caine was tabbed to the 2014 All-ACC Preseason team while the Hokies were picked to finish 10th in the league. Also returning from last season’s starting lineup are outside hitter and 2013 ACC All-Freshman team honoree Lindsey Owens, setter Jordan Fish, libero Megan Beckwith, outside hitter Amanda McKinzie and middle blocker LaTasha Samson-Akpan.
The Hokies also added five newcomers in the offseason with outside hitter Briana Lanktree, setters Rhegan Mitchell and Kyra Coundourides, defensive specialist Rhana Mitchell and middle blocker Clara Payne joining the ranks.
Butler was picked to finish fourth in the Big East after posting a 24-8 overall record, including 11-5 in conference play. The Bulldogs return five starters from last season including preseason all-conference selections outside hitter Belle Obert and middle blocker Erica Stahl.
Obert led the charge at the net, averaging 3.45 kps while tallying 1.08 blocks per set on the defensive side. Stahl was also strong on the net, recording a team-best 1.40 bps. Brooke Ruffolo also returns after having a 2013 season that saw her move in to the Butler record books with 524 digs on the year.
Wichita State represented the Missouri Valley Conference in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and was picked to reclaim the league title this season despite losing five starters from a team that finished 28-7 (15-3 MVC) a year ago. The lone starter from last season is outside hitter Katie Reilly who finished the year with 249 kills and 63 blocks.
On the defensive side, Dani Mostrom returns after averaging 3.47 digs per set last season as a freshman defensive specialist.
Kentucky made the NCAA Tournament for the ninth consecutive year last season and enters the season with a preseason ranking of 19th by the AVCA. The Wildcats return four starters and their libero from last year’s team that reached the second round of the tournament and finished with a 22-9 overall record and 13-5 in the SEC. UK was tabbed to finish second in the conference.
Setter Morgan Bergern was named to the SEC preseason team after tallying 1,215 assists on the season last year. The Wildcats also return outside hitters Anni Thomasson and Lauren O’Connor who averaged, 2.24 and 2.18 kps set in 2013.
ALL-TIME vs. THE FIELD
This will mark the first meeting between Butler and Virginia Tech. The Hokies and Shockers have met just one time previously, but it was 20 years ago during the 1990 campaign when Wichita State picked up the 3-0 win. Tech and Kentucky have met four times previously with the Wildcats winning all four. The two last met in 2011 when UK won 3-0.
The Hokies are 21-16 all-time in season openers and are undefeated under Chris Riley.
Virginia Tech will remain on the road, traveling to Athens, Ohio, Sept. 5-6, for the Ohio University Invitational where the Hokies will face VCU, host-team Ohio and Texas A&M.
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