Texas A&M released a challenging schedule earlier today that features both of the National Championship teams from 2016 in Texas and Stanford. The Aggies will also take on seven-time National Champion Penn State.
The schedule kicks off with an exhibition match against TCU with the regular season beginning August 25th against Sam Houston State. That match will kick-start the Texas A&M Invitational that also features Texas State and VCU.
The following weekend, A&M hosts two potential top-10 teams in Penn State on September 2nd and Stanford the next day.
“It’s going to be a phenomenal event,” Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli said in the news release. “Both Penn State and Stanford have a very good chance of advancing to the Final Four, and I think we will have seven or eight All-Americans playing volleyball in Reed Arena over that weekend. There is no doubt you have to have great players to achieve what those programs have achieved, so I think our players will be very enthusiastic and will welcome the test that weekend brings.”
Texas A&M travels for the first time the next week to Madison as they face a perennial top-25 opponent in Wisconsin and a Lipscomb team that has made three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. A&M rounds out the non-conference portion at home against back-to-back NCAA Runner-Up Texas on September 13th. In total, the last five matches of the pre-conference slate are all against 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, with four against opponents who finished in the top 10 of the final AVCA Coaches Poll.
In SEC play, the notable matches are against Missouri and Florida, who shared the conference title in 2016. The Aggies face Missouri on September 24th in College Station and on November 3rd in Columbia. A&M travels to Gainesville on October 4th and host the Gators on November 15th. Missouri also faces off with Kentucky – who along with Texas A&M finished just a game back of Missouri and Florida – on October 11th and 29th. Senior day will be November 19th against South Carolina.
“There is not a night off during the conference schedule, and there are probably up to eight teams in the league that could finish in the top three or four in the standings,” Corbelli said about the schedule release. “The athleticism in our conference only gets better. Players are getting bigger and stronger, and we just have a cadre of awesome coaches in the SEC that have great resources.”
Texas A&M finished 21-9 last season and 15-3 in the SEC, good enough for an NCAA Tournament berth. The Aggies return 10 letterwinners including All-American honorable mentions Kaitlyn Blake and Kiara McGee. The schedule is difficult, but the Aggies have what it takes to navigate and flirt with their sixth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, especially if they can score some high-level RPI victories in the non-conference.