The University of West Florida held an open house for their fall athletics programs Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the season starting this weekend. "Honestly, if you're in Pensacola this weekend and you're not in our gym, you're going to miss out!" said UWF Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Melissa Wolter. The season opening Hampton Inn-Vitational Tournament begins this Thursday evening at the university field house. UWF's first game is at 6 p.m. against Wheeling Jesuit. "I'm very strategic about who we seek out to come to this tournament. We don't send a blast of emails out to 360 coaches. I pick up the phone and I call, and there's specific teams we want to play for a lot of different reasons. I want teams that have tradition, that have a history of success. And, Southwest Minnesota State, they've been all the way to the national finals a couple of years ago. Wheeling Jesuit were the national champion two years ago and they were in the Elite Eight last year. So they've made a name for themselves. "
Coach Wolter has led UWF Volleyball to an NCAA Tournament appearance for the last 11 years in a row says the biggest reason is giving her team a test against the toughest competition early in the season. "Those are typically the top teams we go after because we want to play teams that are going to have strong records, which will help our strength of schedule this year - win or lose."
"This is a big weekend for our fall sports" said Dave Scott, the Athletic Director at UWF. Scott says in addition to the volleyball tournament, the Men’s Soccer team will team will be welcoming Tampa, one its toughest competitors on Friday. Men's Soccer Head Coach Bill Elliot says his team is ready to go. "The opener with Tampa should be fantastic. They are coming in as the regional champs. And I believe we carry the longest streak in the region right now." That regular season unbeaten streak stands at 10 games carried over from last season.
Men’s Soccer has nine starters returning from last year, losing only two. The volleyball squad has not been that lucky. Coach Wolter has lost five of her six starting players from last year. She says the success of the program has made recruiting to fill those spots a little less challenging. "Great players want to play in great programs. Great players want to play great competition. That's why we schedule tough [opponents] and that's why when we go out and we sell our program, it's an easy sell. There was once upon a time when it wasn't an easy sell. The location's great, I think the institution's great but when I first got here we didn't have that [reputation for winning] yet. And now we do, and I think great players want to play in great programs. Period."
In addition to this weekend’s home volleyball tournament and men’s soccer matches, women’s soccer opens their season on the road Friday, men’s and women’s cross country begin competition next weekend in South Carolina, and season two of UWF football kicks off Saturday evening in Missouri.