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Grizzlies volleyball to open 2022-23 season at home

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MISSOULA — For the first time in eight years, and just the fourth time in the past two decades, Montana will open its volleyball season in Missoula, hosting the Farmers State Bank Invitational Aug. 26-27. The Grizzlies announced their full schedule on Thursday afternoon, including 11 home contests.

Friday, Aug. 26 is the first date of allowable competition for the 2022 volleyball season, and Montana isn't wasting any time, hosting North Dakota at 10 a.m. to kick off the two-day tournament. Additionally, Montana will host UT Arlington and UC Davis in the round-robin tournament, which will feature six matches in Missoula.

This fall will mark the second consecutive season that Montana and North Dakota will meet across the net. A season ago in Grand Forks, the Grizzlies swept their former Big Sky foes to win the UND Classic title. Montana has previously played UT Arlington three times, but none since 1995, and has played UC Davis four times previously, most-recently in 2019.

The weekend will feature a big opening test for the Grizzlies. Both UT Arlington and UC Davis advanced to the NIVC postseason tournament as recently as 2019, while North Dakota won 30 matches and qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2017, the Fighting Hawks' final season in the Big Sky.

During Montana's three other non-conference weekends, the Grizzlies will span the country, traveling to Indianapolis, Indiana (1,734 miles), Edinburg, Texas (2,043) and Charleston, South Carolina (2,443).

Hosted by IUPUI, the Hampton Inn Invitational (Sept. 2-3) will feature a wide range of opposition.

Montana will open the weekend against Drake, perennially one of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. It will mark the third time in the past six seasons that the Grizzlies and Bulldogs have faced each other, with last year's 3-2 Griz victory serving as one of the seminal moments of Montana's season. Montana lost the first two sets before rallying to win the final three. Later that evening, the Grizzlies beat North Dakota to win their first tournament title since 2006.

One day after playing Drake, Montana will play Saint Francis – a Northeast Conference team from Pennsylvania – for the second time in program history and face host IUPUI for the first time.

The season's third weekend (Sept. 9-10) will be special for senior Jackie Howell, who will play minutes from her hometown of Mission, Texas. The Grizzlies will face Prairie View A&M and UT Rio Grande Valley (twice), both for the first time in school history.

During the Spring 2021 season, Prairie View A&M went 11-1 in the SWAC. UT Rio Grande Valley went 17-11 a season ago, advancing to the NIVC postseason tournament.

Montana's final non-conference weekend will be in Charleston, South Carolina, for a tournament hosted by Charleston Southern (Sept. 16-17). Details for the weekend are still being formalized. The Grizzlies have played the Buccaneers once before, a 2002 Griz win, but are familiar with the area, traveling to Charleston just a season ago for a tournament hosted by the College of Charleston.

Montana's Big Sky Conference schedule was announced earlier this spring and will feature 16 matches, beginning Sept. 22 at Northern Arizona. Since the release, however, there have been a handful of changes. Both matches against Montana State have been moved to Friday night, including in Missoula on Nov. 11, the night before Montana football's home game vs. Eastern Washington.

Additionally, the 2022 Big Sky Conference tournament, which will be held in Ogden, Utah, will now take place Nov. 23-26, with quarterfinals matches taking place on Wednesday before an off day on Thursday for Thanksgiving and the resumption of action on Friday and Saturday.

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