ABILENE, Texas -

An early September home-and-home series vs. the Red Raiders of Texas Tech is one of several highlights on the Abilene Christian 2013 volleyball schedule. As first-year members of NCAA Division I and the Southland Conference, the Wildcats also will play at tournaments hosted by UT-Arlington, New Mexico and Grand Canyon.
 
ACU's season begins Fri., Aug. 30 with a match at UTA followed by a Saturday doubleheader vs. Louisiana Tech and Grambling State.  From there, the Wildcats head to Lubbock on Tuesday, Sept. 3 for their first meetings with the Red Raiders since 1983. Tech will serve as ACU's first home D-I opponent the following Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.
 
ACU's second three-match weekend tournament will take place Sept. 13 and 14 in Albuquerque, where they'll face the Lobos in addition to Northern Arizona and Towson.
 
The Wildcats' Southland Conference season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 19 vs. the defending league champions from Central Arkansas. The Sugar Bears went 30-5 last season and tied Sam Houston State for the conference's best record at 15-3. The Bearkats will visit ACU for a 2 p.m. match on Saturday, Oct. 12.
 
Additional home matches for the Wildcats include McNeese State and Nicholls State the weekend of Sept. 26 and 28, while Lamar comes to town Thursday, Oct. 10. ACU will finish its conference season with three straight home matches vs. Northwestern State, Stephen F. Austin and Incarnate Word on Oct. 31, Nov. 2 and 9.
 
ACU's Southland road opponents include Oral Roberts, Houston Baptist, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans. Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word and New Orleans are all new to the conference this season along with ACU, giving the league 14 members.
 
In between conference weekends, the Wildcats will face UIW and Grand Canyon in San Antonio on Oct. 19 and 20. ACU first played the Cardinals in 1984 and have been on their schedule every year since 2000. UIW was a member of the Lone Star Conference from 2010-13.
 
These three schools also will be part of a late-November tournament hosted by GCU in Phoenix the weekend of Nov. 22-23 since none will be eligible for postseason competition until 2017. Grand Canyon recently departed the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference for the Western Athletic Conference and will be the first for-profit institution to compete in NCAA Division I sports.
 
The Wildcats prepared for their daunting schedule with an equally imposing spring exhibition season that featured matches vs. UTA, Baylor, SMU, Texas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. ACU didn't come away with any upsets, but head coach  said her side competed extremely well against tough competition.
 
“Our goal was to learn as much as we could about how to compete against D-I schools,” said the eighth-year head coach and former Wildcat player, “ and I came away pleasantly surprised about the level at which we competed. There were a lot of long rallies and we controlled our side of the net a lot better than we did last fall. We'll give teams fits if we can further reduce our number of errors.
 
“We have to learn how to play a different game. The speed and height of contact is significantly different than D-II and the serves are much more powerful. Our defense played very well, and made their adjustments to a more physical game, but our offense will have to play smarter against a bigger and better block.

Information provided by ACU Athletics Dept.