Over 2,000 fans are expected to fill Bender Arena Aug. 24 for the sixth annual Bender Blue Out, as the AU women’s volleyball team kicks off the 2012 season against cross-town rival Georgetown University at 7 p.m.
The Bender Blue Out, which has broken the attendance record for Washington, D.C. collegiate volleyball matches four out of the last five years, is the opening match in this year’s D.C. Volleyball Challenge.
AU will host George Mason Saturday at 7 p.m. in Bender Arena on the second day of the Challenge.
“The Blue Out is unlike anything else, because you walk out there and it’s almost like you’re playing in a professional football stadium,” 2011 Patriot League Player of the Year Sara Rishell said. “It’s a great experience to be a part of and to perform in front of everyone there.”
The Eagles will take on a Georgetown squad that finished 14-13 last season, including a 6-8 record in Big East play. The Hoyas return with their leaders in kills, blocks and points, but also without three 2012 seniors.
“Georgetown has typically been a tough team in the past,” 2011 All-Patriot League First Team selection Juliana Crum said. “Last year, Georgetown’s strength was in that they had a lot of seniors, and a lot of returning girls who had been playing with each other for a few years. This year, we’re returning almost everyone except for our setter, so that will be a big advantage in that we’ve been playing with each other and we know our strengths and weaknesses better than last year.”
AU will try to build off last season’s success to help them not only in the Blue Out, but in the rest of the season as well. The Eagles finished 23-11 (13-1 Patriot League), won both the regular season and conference tournament championships and earned an NCAA Tournament berth in 2011.
“The great thing about the team this year is that as great as everyone was as freshmen last year, they’re even better this year now that they have that year of experience under their belt,” 2011 Patriot League Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year Rebecca Heath said. “Over the course of last season, we grew a lot from the beginning to the end, and I think that growth will carry over into this season. That’s something we’re really excited about.”