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Soccer, volleyball teams to begin OVC play tonight
Both squads will play two home matches this weekend.
The stakes will begin to get considerably higher for the Southeast Missouri State women's soccer and volleyball teams tonight when they begin Ohio Valley Conference play.
Both Southeast squads will have two-match homestands this weekend.
Soccer faces Murray State at 7 p.m. tonight and Tennessee-Martin at 2 p.m. Sunday, while volleyball takes on Tennessee-Martin at 7 p.m. tonight and Murray State at 2 p.m. Saturday.
"Even though we're just starting conference play, this is an important weekend for us," Southeast soccer coach Heather Nelson said. "We really need to get off to a good start."
Volleyball coach Renata Nowacki feels the same way.
"We're excited about the conference season getting going and we want to get off to a good start," she said. "It's a big weekend for us."
Nelson believes her Redhawks (3-4) are entering OVC play at the right time. They are coming off their best performance of the season, Monday's 2-1 loss at nationally ranked St. Louis University.
"I'm excited because the timing is perfect leading into the conference season," Nelson said. "For the first time, the formula is starting to come together for us. We feel now our athletes are at the positions best suited to them. With so many new players, it has taken some time."
Southeast was picked third in the OVC's preseason soccer poll, just ahead of No. 4 Murray State (3-4-1). Tennessee-Martin (2-5-1) was picked ninth out of 10 teams, but Nelson expects both matches to be difficult.
"There is always a lot of balance in the conference," she said.
Nowacki also expects rugged challenges from the volleyball teams that have the OVC's best records entering conference play despite being predicted to finish toward the bottom of the 11-team league.
Murray State (8-2) was rated No. 9 in the preseason poll, but the Racers are off to their best start in school history. Tennessee-Martin (11-3) was picked dead last but has posted eight consecutive victories.
"Everybody in the conference is going to be tough this year," said Nowacki, whose squad was picked fourth in the preseason poll. "These teams are going to want to start off conference strong, just like we are."
The Redhawks (6-7) got off to a slow start against rugged competition but they have won five of their last six matches.
Murray State is coached by former Southeast assistant Dave Schwepker and the Racers features Leopold High School product Holly Jansen, who leads the squad in kills.
Redhawk Rally night
Southeast is billing tonight's soccer and volleyball action as Redhawk Rally night.
A tailgating party with free hot dogs, popcorn and soda will begin at 5:30 p.m. outside Houck Field House and Houck Stadium. Also, as a special promotion, there will be no admission charge for either of tonight's events.