After the most important day for the CSU Bakersfield volleyball team since moving to the NCAA Division I level in 2007, which came on Tuesday when the CSUB athletic program accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference as a full-fledged member beginning in 2013 and ended the 'Runner volleyball team's independent status, the 'Runners are headed to Montgomery, Ala. to take on Alabama State for a two-match tilt this weekend.
The 'Runners (8-10) will face the Hornets (4-19) at 5 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday at 11 a.m. (PDT) on Sunday. CSUB has faced Alabama State once in program history, which occurred in 2011 when the 'Runners topped the Hornets 3-1 at the Maryland-Eastern Shore Invitational. Alabama State will take on Jackson State on Friday night before playing host to the 'Runners.
CSUB, a program that in 2012 has already matched its win total of eight from 2011 with 12 matches remaining on the schedule, has proven it is a team headed in the right direction after being named the sixth most-improved team in Division I volleyball last year. Joining the WAC in 2013 will only help the 'Runners as they will now be playing for WAC championships every year, which comes with the added benefit of having the chance to earn an automatic-qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"This is a great time to be a Roadrunner," said CSUB head coach Jolene Shepardson. "Everyone in our program is beyond excited that we are going into next fall with the opportunity to play teams like New Mexico State and Utah Valley and have a chance to win a WAC championship and go to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We are training for it right now. We started Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. We are already working toward it and already loving the opportunity to be in the WAC. It is going to be a great ride and we are excited to be a part of it and a part of it from the beginning."
The membership also means more structure for CSUB's schedule with against a highly-competitive WAC field, which includes familiar opponents like Utah Valley and Seattle, in addition to proven programs like New Mexico State, Idaho and Denver. Utah Valley joins CSUB as a newcomer to the WAC in 2013. The 'Runners already beat Utah Valley 3-1 on Sept. 22 at the Icardo Center and will play the Wolverines again on Oct. 20 in Orem, Utah.
After playing Alabama State, CSUB will return to California to play rival Fresno State in Fresno on Thursday night.