They will not count toward the conference standings, but in many ways the four volleyball matches that Arkansas Tech will play at the University of Alabama in Huntsville/Country Inn and Suites Tournament this weekend are as important as any it will play this season.
The matches, all against members of the Gulf South Conference East Division, are critical because they count as in-region competitions.
Those carry extra weight when it comes time to select the participants in the NCAA Division II Volleyball Tournament, an event that the Golden Suns have only qualified for once (2000).
Arkansas Tech (8-3) will open its portion of the UAH tournament by taking on Valdosta State (5-3) at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The Suns’ second match of the day will pit them against Alabama-Huntsville (2-6) at 5 p.m.
On Saturday, Tech will face West Alabama (2-6) at 9 a.m. and West Georgia (2-8) at 11:30 a.m.
All four matches will be played at Spragins Hall on the UAH campus.
Of their four opponents this weekend, Valdosta State figures to provide the Golden Suns with their greatest challenge.
The Lady Blazers have won five consecutive matches behind one of the GSC’s top defenses. Valdosta State ranks third in the conference in both blocks (1.83 per game) and digs (16.58 per game).
Arkansas Tech will test that defense with the second-best team hitting percentage (.221) in the GSC.
After their trip to the Yellowhammer State, the Golden Suns will prepare for their 2010 GSC West Division opener against Ouachita Baptist.
First serve for the Suns and the Lady Tigers at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21.