PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Fourteen of the 15 BIG EAST volleyball squads take to the court this weekend as the 2010 season begins. Twelve teams start play on Aug. 27, while two more teams will start their seasons on Aug. 28. Each team will be playing in various tournaments throughout the country before beginning conference play on Sept. 24.
Friday's games will see 12 teams playing in 12 different tournaments. St. John's is the first BIG EAST team in action, taking on Iona at 10 a.m. in the Army Tournament. Preseason favorite Cincinnati travels to the West Coast to take part in the Aztec Invitational where the Bearcats battle Northern Colorado. Notre Dame welcomes Marshall to campus as part of the Shamrock Classic. Both the Bearcats and the Fighting Irish received votes in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll.
Seton Hall will participate in the Tribe Invitational in Williamsburg, Va., as the Pirates face-off against William & Mary. Pittsburgh faces a tough challenge in its first match with No. 21 Dayton in the Ohio State Tournament. Cincinnati will not be the only team out west, as Rutgers makes the cross-country trip for the Baden Classic where the Scarlet Knights open against Long Beach State.
Also in action Friday will be DePaul vs. Illinois-Chicago in the Chicagoland Classic, Georgetown hosts George Washington in the DC Challenge, Louisville welcomes North Dakota State in the Cardinal Classic, Marquette takes on Stony Brook in the Golden Gopher Invite, Syracuse vs. Fairfield in the Colgate Classic and Villanova vs. Campbell in the UNC Invitational.
Both USF and West Virginia begin play on Saturday. USF opens up at No. 15 Florida State in the FSU Invitational, while West Virginia hosts Howard and Buffalo in a double header as part of the WVU Volleyball Classic. Marquette, which placed fourth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll including one first-place vote, tests its abilities early in the season when the Golden Eagles battle No. 6 Minnesota.
Villanova highlights Saturday's action when the Wildcats play No. 1 Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won 102 straight matches heading into the season, the second longest winning streak in Division I team sports. This is the second-straight season a BIG EAST team will try to put an end to the Penn State reign, as Pittsburgh took on the challenge last year.
Four teams wrap up their tournaments on Sunday, including Notre Dame which hosts No. 18 Arizona. Connecticut opens play next weekend when they host the UConn Toyota Classic beginning Sept. 3.
Last season the BIG EAST had three teams selected for the NCAA Championship, including Louisville, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. Teams ended the year with a total record of 130-99 (.568) against nonconference opponents, the best winning percentage since 2005 when BIG EAST teams combined for a .627 winning percentage. Notre Dame registered a win against the highest ranked team in 2009 when they beat No. 5 Stanford on the opening weekend of play. The Fighting Irish were also the only BIG EAST team to land in the AVCA top 25, staying in the rankings for three straight weeks and reaching as high as No. 23.