Southland Volleyball Weekly Release (PDF)FRISCO, Texas – The Southland Conference starts its 33rd season of volleyball Friday with all 13 teams in action. Two-time defending conference champion Central Arkansas travels to Eugene, Ore., to take on Illinois State at 6:30 p.m. CT in the University of Oregon Tournament. Northwestern State, last year’s regular-season and conference tournament runner-up, plays at North Texas at 7 p.m. as part of the North Texas Invitational. All 13 teams will be competing in at least three matches this weekend, with two teams hosting tournaments as Houston Baptist hosts the Husky Classic and Sam Houston hosts the Sam Houston Invitational. Other Friday matches include:· Lamar vs. Texas State, 10 a.m.· McNeese State vs. Stetson, 10 a.m.· Southeastern Louisiana at UAB, 10 a.m.· Louisiana-Monroe at Sam Houston State, 11 a.m.· New Orleans at Texas Southern, 1 p.m.· Southeastern Louisiana vs. Michigan State, 2 p.m.· Stephen F. Austin vs. Michigan, 4 p.m.· Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. Portland, 4:30 p.m.· Nicholls vs. Alabama A&M, 5 p.m.· Lamar at Houston, 6 p.m.· Mississippi State at Sam Houston State, 6:30 p.m.· Abilene Christian at Baylor, 7 p.m.· Northern Arizona at Houston Baptist, 7 p.m.· UIW at Texas-Arlington, 7 p.m.· McNeese State at Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m. Central Arkansas Falls to Purdue in NCAA TournamentFor the second consecutive season, Central Arkansas saw its volleyball program’s wildly successful season come to a close in the first round of NCAA Tournament, falling to perennial power Purdue in three sets. The loss brought an end to another championship season for the Sugar Bears who made their second consecutive NCAA Tournament after winning 22 straight matches, including 21 straight against conference foes. After becoming the first Southland program to win back-to-back regular season and tournament championships since 1990, Central Arkansas was knocked out of the national championship tournament by a Purdue team that reached the second round of the NCAAs for four straight years and nine of the last 11. 2013 Season Recap…Central Arkansas Claims Second Consecutive Regular-Season CrownThe Sugar Bears finished the 2013 regular season with a perfect league record (18-0) and captured their second consecutive regular-season title. Finishing with an overall record of 26-3, the Sugar Bears rode a 19-match win streak into the postseason. Central Arkansas became the fifth team since 2000 to finish the regular season undefeated in conference play. Conference Championship Carried Exclusively on ESPN3The 2014 conference tournament will be held Nov. 21-23 at Prather Coliseum on the campus of Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. The championship match will be carried exclusively on ESPN3. In addition, quarterfinal and semifinal games of the tournament will be streamed live on the Southland Conference Digital Network, available at southland.org and on the league’s Apple and Android mobile and tablet apps. Central Arkansas Picked as 2014 FavoriteTwo-time defending regular-season and conference tournament champion Central Arkansas has been picked to win the 2014 Southland Conference regular-season championship in polls conducted by the league’s coaches and sports information directors. The Sugar Bears claimed their second consecutive regular-season title last year and fourth in the past five years, going 29-4 overall and 18-0 within conference play. UCA captured its second conference tournament championship, returning to the NCAA tournament for only the second time in school history. The Sugar Bears own a 59-9 cumulative record over the past two seasons, which is the second most wins of any NCAA Division I volleyball program over the last two years. UCA received eight first-place votes from the coaches and 10 first-place nods from the SIDs to earn a total of 140 points in both the coaches’ poll and the SID poll. The Sugar Bears Defeat Northwestern State in Tournament Title GameNo. 1 seed Central Arkansas earned its second consecutive tournament championship and bid to the NCAA Volleyball Tournament after it held off No. 2 seed Northwestern State in five set. For the first time all season, Central Arkansas lost two sets to a conference opponent as the Lady Demons took the second set and a 2-0 lead in the match. However, the Sugar Bears battled back in the third and pushed the match to five sets, clinching the match and tournament title by three points in the final set (15-12). 13 Opponents from 2013 NCAA TournamentThirteen opponents for eight Southland programs were a part of the 64 teams that participated in last season’s NCAA tournament. Among these 13 foes are Florida State, Michigan State and Kansas who all reached the third round of the tournament. Five of these opponents do not appear on the preseason top-25 poll and did not receive votes, these matchups are listed below.· Aug. 29 – Lamar vs. Texas State, 10 a.m.· Aug. 30 – Stephen F. Austin at Arkansas, 11 a.m.· Sept. 6 – Abilene Christian at Texas State, 2 p.m.· Sept. 6 – Southeastern Louisiana vs. Hampton, 4 p.m.· Sept. 12 – UIW vs. Texas State, 10 a.m.· Sept. 19 – Stephen F. Austin vs. Louisville, 12:30 p.m.· Sept. 22 – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m. Three Returning All-Conference Selections Highlight Preseason First TeamSam Houston State senior Deveney Wells-Gibson, Northwestern State senior Keelie Arneson and Central Arkansas junior Heather Schnars highlight the list of 18 volleyball players on the 2014 All-Southland Conference preseason volleyball teams. Wells-Gibson, an outside hitter from San Antonio, Texas, led the conference in kills (457) and ranked sixth in the nation in kills per set (4.71). Arneson, a senior from Tomball, Texas, led the conference in overall digs (712) and finished the season fourth in the nation in digs per set (5.70). Schnars, a junior outside hitter from Downey, Calif., finished first in the conference in service aces (54), third in kills (383), fourth in kills per set (3.51), 11th in hitting percentage (.269) and was ninth in the nation in aces per set (.50). Northwestern State led all teams with five selections, including three first-team honorees. Central Arkansas placed four players on the teams, including three first-team honorees, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi had three selections with two first-team honorees. Stephen F. Austin had two first-team selections while Sam Houston State and McNeese State each placed one on the first team. Houston Baptist and Lamar each had one second-team honoree. Southland Faces Four AVCA Ranked Teams Eight Southland programs will face four teams that appear on the American Volleyball Coaches Association top-25 preseason poll and six that received votes. Central Arkansas is scheduled against 13th-ranked Florida State, Northwestern State against No. 15 Missouri, Southeastern Louisiana against No. 16 Michigan State and Sam Houston State against No. 22 Kansas. Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Lamar and Houston Baptist will take on four teams who received votes in the preseason poll.· Aug. 29 – Southeastern Louisiana vs. No. 16 Michigan State, 2 p.m.· Aug. 29 – Stephen F. Austin vs. Michigan, 4 p.m.· Aug. 30 – Central Arkansas at Oregon, 11 a.m.· Aug. 30 – Northwestern State vs. No. 15 Missouri, 1 p.m.· Sept. 6 – Sam Houston State vs. No. 22 Kansas, 10 a.m.· Sept. 12 – Central Arkansas vs. LSU, 4 p.m.· Sept. 13 – Central Arkansas at No. 13 Florida State, 10 a.m.· Sept. 13 – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Long Beach State, 2 p.m.· Sept. 13 – Lamar at Oklahoma, 2 p.m.· Sept. 19 – Houston Baptist vs. New Mexico, 4 p.m.