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Volleyball tournament comes to Hanner

2012 SpringHill Suites Eagle Invitational
Hanner Fieldhouse
Today's Game
    7 p.m.    — Georgia Southern vs. South Alabama
Friday's Games
    10 a.m.     — Wisconsin vs. Savannah State
    Noon        — Savannah State vs. Jacksonville
    5 p.m.    — Jacksonville vs. South Alabama
    7 p.m.    — Georgia Southern vs. Wisconsin
Saturday's Games
    10 a.m.     — Wisconsin vs. Jacksonville
    Noon        — South Alabama vs Savannah State
    2 p.m.    — Georgia Southern vs. Savannah State
    4 p.m.    — South Alabama vs. Wisconsin
    7 p.m.    — Georgia Southern vs. Jacksonville

    The Georgia Southern Eagles have taken to the volleyball court at the homes of some of the best teams in the nation so far this season.
    Today, when the Eagles take to Hanner Fieldhouse, they get to face one at home.
    The SpringHill Suites Eagle Invitational begins today at 7 p.m., and among the five teams competing in the event is Wisconsin, a Big Ten team that out-sizes the Eagles at just about every position.
    “I had a friend tell me to kick their tail,” said GSU coach Chad Callihan. “I said, ‘Well, we may have to punch them, because I don’t think we can get our leg up high enough to reach them.’”
    The Eagles (6-4) take on Wisconsin (8-1) Friday at 7 p.m.
    “It’s going to be interesting,” said Callihan. “They’re just so big and physical. They have a 6-foot-5 outside hitter, and ours average 5-foot-10.”
     GSU opens the tournament tonight at 7 p.m. against South Alabama (5-5), another tough test, and wrap up tournament play Saturday against Savannah State (2 p.m.) and Jacksonville (7 p.m.).
    The Eagles won their home opener on Wednesday, Sept. 4, with a shutout against Mercer, after opening with tournaments at Auburn and Georgia.
    Then, they returned to the road for a tournament at New Mexico.
    “We’ve been on the road the previous three weekends,” Callihan said. “I guess there’s negatives that go along with everything, but the positive is we’ve had the chance to compete in a good environment against the top teams in the country.”
    Losses came to Georgia (3-1), Auburn (3-1), New Mexico (3-2) and UC Santa Barbera (3-1). The good news is that GSU finished with a winning record at each of the first two tournaments, and had its chances in the losses.
    “I think the biggest thing for us is that we’ve had the opportunity to win every match against some tough competition,” said Callihan. “We lost two of those matches in five and the other two in four, and we had opportunities in
    The tournament will be the last non-conference stretch before the Eagles begin Southern Conference play on Friday, Sept. 21 at Wofford.
    The Eagles won the league in 2010, but followed up the season with a disappointing, 10-6 record in SoCon play.
    “All of a sudden, we became the top team, and I just don’t think we’ve ever been in that position,” said Callihan. “We didn’t handle it very well. But this team is hungry. The term used around here is, ‘A bad case of the wants.’ Our group definitely has that, and we have a good mix of talent.”
    Winning the home tournament and entering the SoCon after a big win against a big Wisconsin squad on Friday would be just the way to end the non-conference slate.
    “Our style of play helps us compete with bigger teams,” Callihan said. “Hopefully that, with a combination of us executing well and being at home, anything can happen.”

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.