Boiling Springs, N.C. - The Gardner-Webb volleyball team will open up the 2012 season this weekend, Friday and Saturday, at the Active Ankle Challenge hosted by Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
The Runnin' Bulldogs, which return four starters from last season and eight overall letterwinners, open up the regular season on the road for the seventh straight year.
Gardner-Webb is slated to play three matches in the four-team round robin tournament, which includes Ball State, Illinois State and Virginia Commonwealth.
GWU will open up the season and the tournament against the host Ball State University at 7 p.m. on Friday night, August 24th.
The Runnin' Bulldogs have never faced off with the Cardinals of Ball State, who return nine letterwinners from last year's team that went 25-8 overall and received an at-large bid to the 2011 NCAA National Championship Tournament.
On Saturday afternoon the Runnin' Bulldogs will match up with the Illinois State Redbirds at 1:30 p.m.
This year's meeting will be the second meeting between these two teams on the volleyball court, as Illinois State defeated Gardner-Webb in straight sets, 3-0, back in 2009 at the Redbird Classic.
This season, Illinois State, who was picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, returns 10 letterwinners from last year's team that went 18-14 overall and advanced to the semi-finals of the 2011 MVC Championship Tournament.
Gardner-Webb will wrap up their opening weekend of play with a match against VCU at 4:30 p.m.
The Rams of VCU, who were picked sixth overall in their first year in the Atlantic 10 Conference, finished the 2011 season at 17-17 overall and made it to the 2011 Colonial Athletic Association Championship Tournament match for the fourth time since 2005.
GWU is 0-2 all-time versus the Rams, last falling to VCU in straight sets 3-0 back in 2006.