SAN ANTONIO — UTSA will open its 30th season of play this weekend when it travels to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to participate in the Blue Raiders Bash.
The Roadrunners will begin the campaign on 2:30 p.m. on Friday against UAB before matching up with tournament host Middle Tennessee and Furman the following day at 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.
UTSA, which was picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Preseason Coaches Poll, returns eight letterwinners and four starters from last year's team that finished with a 22-11 overall record, including a 14-2 mark in its final season of Southland Conference play.
Senior outside hitter Whitney Walls and junior outside hitter McKenzie Adams both earned preseason All-WAC accolades.
Adams, the 2011 Southland Newcomer of the Year, tallied 253 kills (2.88 kps) and 117 total blocks (32 solos/85 assists). Meanwhile, Walls, a first-team All-Southland pick a year ago, posted 339 winners (2.92 kps) and hit at a .317 clip.
The Blazers, who were picked fourth in the preseason Conference USA (C-USA) Coaches Poll, return 10 letterwinners and all six starters from last year's squad that went 23-9 (13-7 C-USA). Middle hitter Sam Serley earned honorable mention AVCA All-America honors last season after leading the club with 287 kills (2.43 kps), 154 total blocks (33 solos/121 assists) and a .351 hitting percentage.
The Blue Raiders return six letterwinners and one starter from last year's team that netted a 21-12 mark (14-2 Sun Belt Conference) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season. Outside hitter Ashley Adams, who led the team with 425 kills (3.73 kps), is Middle Tennessee's lone starter returning.
The Paladins, who are picked to finish second in the South Division of the Southern Conference (SoCon), welcome back 10 letterwinners and four starters from last season's team that posted a 21-9 ledger (13-3 SoCon). Middle hitter Caroline Adams and outside hitter Natalie Braun both were named to the preseason All-SoCon team. Adams led the squad with a .323 hitting percentage a year ago, while Braun collected 349 digs (3.49 dps).
The Roadrunners and UAB have split the previous two meetings between the two programs. UTSA edged the Blazers in a five-set thriller in the last matchup on Sept. 18, 2010.
Meanwhile, the Blue Raiders are 2-0 all-time against the Birds, including a sweep in the last meeting between the teams on Sept. 19, 2009.
UTSA and Furman will square off for the first time on Saturday night.