The UST volleyball team returns to play this August, chasing a RRAC title. The Celts, who ended their 2016 RRAC campaign 10-4, finished 2nd in the regular season behind Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU).
The Celts are working towards that conference title by pushing themselves in the pre-season. Playing in back to back weekend tournaments to kick start this title run, the Celts will face some top programs. "To be the best you have to play and beat the best," said head coach Keanne Burt. "We want to challenge ourselves early so that when conference play comes- we are ready."
The Celts open play, August 18th, travelling north to Texas Wesleyan (TWU) and Southwestern Assemblies of God (SAGU), who dually host the RRAC/SAC Conference Clash Tournament. The Sooner Athletic Conference will bring tough competition for the Celts in opponents: Panhandle State University, Saint Gregory's University and hosts SAGU, TWU.
The challenge will continue with two strong teams coming out of the Mid-South Conference, Lindsey Wilson and Georgetown College, that UST will face in the OLLU hosted tournament August 25th and 26th. The NAIA coaches' top 25 poll-postseason ranked Lindsey Wilson 5th and Georgetown College 22nd.
The Celts will continue to press on while hosting their annual Labor Day weekend tournament September 2nd and 3rd. The full eight team tournament will provide yet another test in the Celts season. Opponents like Loyola University, Southwestern Christian University, and Ave Maria University, are all ready to challenge the Celts on their quest.
RRAC play will open with the longest road trip of the conference for the team: University of the Southwest (USW) in Hobbs, New Mexico and Langston University (LU) in Langston, Oklahoma.
"The RRAC is getting stronger every season," said Burt, "recruiting in the conference has stepped up immensely, and teams are getting harder to beat." Some of the biggest threats in the conference are the Wiley Wildcats, the Huston-Tillotson Rams, the USW Mustangs, and the defending champions- the OLLU Saints. All four teams have been trouble for the Celts in the past but Burt is hoping to change that this season. "We know that everyone has been working hard in their off seasons as well as in their recruiting, but we want a title and are willing to work hard for it. The challenge is what makes sports fun, and we are ready to have some fun this season," said Burt.
Some motivation for the Celts in this title run is the hosting of the RRAC Volleyball Championship Tournament. The Celts won the bid to host the 2017 Championship, voted on by the Athletic Directors in April. "We are ready to have a great year in volleyball and the opportunity to host the 2017 Red River volleyball post season tournament is a huge step towards qualifying for the national tournament," said UST Athletic Director Todd Smith.
Having the home court advantage has proven to be a strong factor in the past championship tournaments. For the past four years the hosting team has won the Championship title. "The athletes are excited to be playing the tournament on our home court, in front of our fans, and supporters. We will be ready to take advantage of this home court opportunity come November," said Burt.
For the Celts full volleyball schedule click HERE