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Season preview: volleyball’s breakout year could be knocking on the door

In his fourth year in Lubbock, coach Graystone looks to solidify himself in Tech’s athletic resurgence

November 23, 2018: The volleyball team closed out its season with a loss at Iowa State. With the final record of 17-13, the Red Raiders achieve the second consecutive winning season. That’s something that didn’t happen since 2000-2001.

Nine months later we talk about volleyball again, as the new season is set to officially begin on August 30. On this date the team led for the fourth season by head coach Tony Graystone will make its debut in Columbus, OH. Indeed, the Red Raiders will face VCU (19-9 in 2018), Ohio State (12-20), and Lehigh (20-8) in the Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic.

But let’s make a step backward, as this was a productive offseason for this team. In May players and coaches traveled to Italy and Slovenia, visiting, training and playing tough games against two different Italian National Teams.

September will be a busy month for our girls, as they’ll participate in three more tournaments:

  • NU Under Armour Tournament in Evanston, IL: against Stephen F. Austin, Northwestern, and Austin Peay;
  • UNLV Classic in Las Vegas, NV: against Pacific UNLV, and Idaho;
  • Red Raider Classic in Lubbock: against Houston, Incarnate Word, and UTEP.

The off-conference schedule will be completed by two games at Northern Illinois and at United Supermarkets Arena against Abilene Christian.

Coach Graystone was looking for strong opponents, and in fact, he found them.

In particular, the NU Under Armour Tournament will show what’s the potential of these Red Raiders. If they will arrive at the first Big 12 game against West Virginia at least with an 8-3 record, the first part of the season will be achieved as a success.

To be sincere, I am convinced this team can go 10-1 or even 11-0: some teams are coming from a fantastic 2018, with participation both in the NIVC Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament. That said, these are teams coming from smaller conferences and can be handled by this Texas Tech squad.

Then, Big 12 play will come.

With some degree of certainty, Texas and Baylor will lead the conference once again this year, with the Longhorns starting the season at no. 4 in the rankings and the Bears at no. 20.

After them, Iowa State probably is the third force in the conference, but the Cyclones lose some important starters. Other teams will fight for this third-fourth position, with a lot of equilibrium amongst the team.

The first goal for the Red Raiders is going at least 8-8 in the conference (16 games, home and away against every school, Oklahoma State has no team). Since the school joined the Big 12 in 1996, a non-negative record only happened four times (1996, 1997, 1998, 2000). Under coach Graystone, the team went 0-16 in 2016, before improving to 4-12 and 6-10 respectively in 2017 and 2018.

Something more (9-7 or 10-6) is possible if the team will stay healthy. And that’s something didn’t happen in 2018.

In the preseason poll, Texas Tech is expected to finish eighth in the conference. Do you remember some other team anticipated to have a bad season and running until a National final?