MORAGA, Calif. -- There won't be any shortage of challenging matchups for the Saint Mary's volleyball team when it comes to the 2014 schedule announced this week by head coach Rob Browning.
The Gaels begin their 2014 campaign on the road when they travel to Logan, Utah to participate in the Utah State Tournament on August 29-30. There, Saint Mary's will take on Utah State, Oregon State and Idaho State in a trio of early tests that should show Browning and Co. exactly where they stand in the first part of the season.
After returning from Utah, Saint Mary's takes root in the Bay Area for a four-match stretch that includes home contests against UC Davis, Utah and Cal Poly as well as a local road trip to San Jose State. The final non-conference trip of the season comes on Sept. 12-13 when the Gaels head to the Pyramid in Long Beach to square off with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Long Beach State. The non-conference slate concludes Sept. 19 when Bay Area rival Cal visits Moraga for a 7 p.m. showdown.
"As always, we are excited about the season ahead," Browning said. "We kick it off with a solid tournament at Utah State where we will face three very good teams. It will be a tough test for us right off the bat. We're excited to have a good variety of home matches our second weekend with UC Davis, Utah, and Cal Poly coming to McKeon.
I'm happy we get to go to Southern California to play a tournament. We have lots of players, alums, and incoming players from that area, so it will be fun to play in front of lots of family and friends down there. Playing Long Beach State at the Pyramid is always a memorable experience."
SMC's mid-September matchup with Cal continues a period where the Gaels have met either the Bears or Stanford each year Browning has been head coach. Last year, Saint Mary's traveled to Stanford and stood toe to toe with the Cardinal before dropping a four-set decision.
"We are fortunate to be in an area where we can play great competition nearby," Browning said. "We have played Cal and/or Stanford every year, and we are excited to host Cal. They are always a strong team and will present a significant challenge."
The West Coast Conference season begins Sept. 25 in Moraga when Pepperdine comes to McKeon Pavilion as part of a weekend that also includes a visit from Loyola Marymount. Saint Mary's plays seven of its first 11 conference matches at home in a stretch that includes 2013 NCAA Tournament teams San Diego (Oct. 9) and BYU (Oct. 11).
Saint Mary's makes its return trip to BYU and San Diego in the first week of November before returning home for the Gaels' final homestand of the season beginning on Nov. 13 with a 7 p.m. match against Gonzaga. Senior Day is set for Nov. 15 against Portland.
The Gaels finish the regular season with three straight on the road, beginning with matches at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine on Nov. 20 and 22. The regular season wraps up Tuesday, Nov. 25 at rival Santa Clara.
Saint Mary's returns a veteran-laden squad for 2014, with six seniors set to make one final push toward a WCC title and spot in the NCAA Tournament. 2013 All-West Coast Conference setter Dalas Dodd also returns for her junior season as the Gaels try to improve on a third-place conference finish last year.