Local volleyball fans will have the opportunity to see some high quality play during the Golden Eagle Invitational presented by Hampton Inn Sept. 18 and 19. The two-day event will feature the hosting Golden Eagles, University of Idaho Vandals, Western Carolina University Catamounts and Towson University Tigers. The idea of hosting an invitational has been a goal for head coach Dave Zelenock.
“This [idea for the invitational] was mine,” said Zelenock. “I wanted it to be done last year, and we just could not make it happen in time, getting sponsorships in place and getting all the things that it takes to run a tournament, so when we could not get it done in time, we basically rolled that stuff into ‘OK, let’s start planning for the following year.’ So, it has been in the works for a long time.”
The Golden Eagles had an impressive home record last season. Last year’s team finished with a 6-2 record inside the Hooper Eblen Center. Their success at home was a driving factor in deciding to host the tournament and adding more home games to the schedule.
“I wanted our fans to be able to see us more,” said Zelenock. “It is always nice to stay in your own bed. Last year we were pretty good at home with our record so we want to try to get as many games here as we can because we seem to play better here.”
Tech wanted to increase the toughness of their schedule by adding more quality opponents. Towson has been the most impressive so far among the tournament teams with a 10-1 record.
“Towson I really want to see because they are really good,” said Zelenock. “I want to get a really good team in our gym. I think they will probably be the highest-ranked RPI [rating percentage index] team that has played in this gym in 15 years or so.”
Western Carolina is a regional opponent for the Golden Eagles. The Catamounts currently have a 5-6 record, but they have one more contest before the tournament against Appalachian State University.
Idaho will try to build momentum after winning their second game of the season in a sweep of St. Francis Brooklyn last Saturday.
For Tech, hosting the tournament will be an opportunity for the team to pick up some wins after beginning the season with a 1-9 record. The start has not been a deterrent for the Golden Eagles. They continue to play the fast-paced style that fans enjoy.
“We fight. Our team fights really hard and even when we give up a run of a few points we fight really hard every time,” said Zelenock. “These teams that are coming in are all dramatically different. They are all higher RPI than us. They have junior and senior kids on the floor. So, we are going to play fast and aggressive and try to out-aggressive these teams and try to have some fun. Win or lose we want to make sure we are putting a good product on the floor that people want to see.”
Friday’s and Saturday’s games are the last contests for the Golden Eagles before Ohio Valley Conference play begins Sept. 25 at Eastern Illinois.