Volleyball weekend preview: Tennessee Invitational

Middle Tennessee heads to Knoxville to take part in the Tennessee Invitational Friday and Saturday. Along with the Blue Raiders and host team, Tennessee Volunteers, Louisiana-Monroe and Cincinnati make up the tournament field.

With one game on Friday and two games on Saturday, let’s look at the opponents that Middle Tennessee will face.

Louisiana-Monroe

The Warhawks had a roller coaster 2015 season, finishing 14-18, but struggled mightily in the Sun Belt and at home. In conference play, Louisiana-Monroe went 3-13 and finished 1-9 at home on the year.

Head coach Patrick Hiltz enters his third year at Monroe, improving heavily from his first year at the helm. In 2014, the Warhawks went 9-24, a solid improvement from year one to year two.

With a roster boasting five new freshmen, but also bringing back numerous upperclassmen, Louisiana-Monroe should be an energetic bunch in Knoxville.

Middle Tennessee takes on Louisiana-Monroe to open the Invitational on Friday.

Cincinnati

The Bearcats pose one of the biggest threats on the weekend, picked as the preseason champion of the American Athletic Conference. Last season, Cincinnati finished third in the AAC after going 21-10, including 13-7 in conference play.

Jordan Thompson returns for the Bearcats after winning the AAC Freshman of the Year award last season. Thompson was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year this season after leading the Bearcats in kills last season with 459.

The Cincinnati roster is loaded with upperclassmen talent, alongside Thompson, and have as great a chance as any to sweep the weekend.

The Blue Raiders and Bearcats face off Saturday afternoon.

Tennessee

The hosts come into the 2016 season after a strong 2015 campaign. Looking for their first winning season since 2012, the Vols were 21-12 — only 7-11 in SEC play — and good enough for an eighth-place finish.

Rob Patrick enters his 20th season as the Vols head coach and returns numerous starters from the 2015 season. Tennessee boasts a new setter for the first time in recent memory after three-year starter Lexi Dempsey graduated.

At home, the Volunteers will be looking to start strong in their 2016 campaign.

The Blue Raiders and Volunteers face off Saturday night.

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To contact Sports Editor Connor Ulrey (@connorulrey), email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

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