BROWNSVILLE – The University of Texas at Brownsville Ocelots women's volleyball squad will have a busy weekend starting Thursday night.
The Ocelots will be home to play in the biggest games of the season when they host the No. 22 Columbia Cougars (Mo.) on Thursday, the No. 3 Biola Eagles (Calif.) on Friday, and the No. 1 Concordia Eagles (Calif.) on Saturday. All games begin at 7:00 p.m. and will all be played at the Manuel Garza B. Gym.
Including UTB, these three teams were the last team's standing in the Final Four of the 2012 NAIA National Tournament.
Concordia and Biola compete in the Golden State Athletic Conference. Columbia plays in the American Midwest Conference and UTB represents the Red River Athletic Conference.
"This is a great weekend for us. It is a chance to see where we match up against the other tops teams in the nation." Coach Todd Lowery said. "This weekend will set the tone for the second half of our year. It's also a great weekend to finally have some matches like this at home."
UTB reached the semifinals of the NAIA tourney a season ago before getting ousted by Columbia. UTB got a shot of redemption beating the Cougars at their place back in August in three straight sets; at the time Columbia was ranked No. 2 in the NAIA. This will be their third encounter for these two teams in the last ten months.
The Ocelots have not faced Biola since an October 27, 2012 matchup in which the Ocelots beat the Eagles in three straight sets. Biola is currently 15-1 overall.
UTB last came face to face with Concordia in 2012 on October 25 when the Ocelots traveled to Irvine, Califormia as the then No. 1 team in the country and lost a five set match to the Eagles who at the time were No. 2 in the NAIA. Concordia, just like UTB, is undefeated this season and Saturday's matchup might be for the No. 1 spot in the land.
The Ocelots were the 2011 NAIA National Champions and Concordia are the 2012 defending national champs.
UTB is led by All-Americans Danica Markovic (61 aces & 210 kills) and Vanja Joksic (154 kills & 62 blocks) and are assisted by Xiaoyu Guo (505 assists) and Heather Meeuwsen (257 digs). UTB ranks No.1 in hitting percentage (0.371) and No. 5 in blocks per game (2.620) in the NAIA. The Ocelots are 18-0 overall and 10-0 in conference.
This is not the first time that the Ocelots play high-ranked teams during the season. For several years UTB has traveled to California during the regular season to play teams such as Biola, Concordia, and others perennial Top 25 teams, so playing these games at home this year is exciting for the Ocelots.
"The last several years we have been traveling to each of these teams home courts, it is going to be great for all of our fans to get to see this high caliber volleyball live." Lowery said. "We are just really excited to get to play these matches and its even better that we get to play them at home this year."
Full Weekend Schedule
Columbia vs UTB 7:00pm
Columbia vs Concordia 5:00pm
Biola vs UTB 7:00pm
Columbia vs Biola 5:00pm
Concordia vs UTB 7:00pm
All Games played at Manuel Garza B. Gym