Later this week Lincoln Memorial University will have its first chance to show the entire South Atlantic Conference what Harrogate hospitality is all about. It will be the first time since LMU joined the SAC during the 2006-07 school year that it will host a conference championship as Mars Gym is home to the 2011 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Volleyball Championship.
The action will get under way on Friday as No. 1 seeded Wingate tangles with No. 8 seeded Carson-Newman at noon. Fourth seeded Tusculum will meet fifth seeded Lenior-Rhyne in the second match of the day set for 2:30 p.m. The evening session will get underway at 5 p.m. as No. 2 seeded Catawba clashes with No. 7 seeded Newberry. Our third seeded Lady Railsplitters will take on No. 6 seeded Mars Hill in the final quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Semifinal Saturday will pit the winners of the day and evening sessions against each other at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The Championship match is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Beyond all the extra planning and game operations that go into hosting a Championship event, the Railsplitter Athletic Department has been hard at work making sure our campus is ready to put on a really successful event. This is where the ever handy jack-of-all-trades PR hat comes in. The PR and Marketing department is lending all four of our hands to set up the hospitality room for the weekend. This means calling and soliciting local restaurants for meal donations, begging for other snack donations at local retailers and distributors and when that failed grabbing a shopping cart and filling the trunks of our cars with all (or at least most) of the supplies we’ll need.
I spent six plus years in college working in sports information, or athletic communications. I truly understand what the Athletic Department is undertaking in hosting such an event as I ran point on the media relations end of a Southeastern Conference Volleyball Championship while I was a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee. It is sure to be an exciting weekend not only for our team, but all the teams. For at least five of the teams it will be the end of their season and some of the athletes the end of their careers. As hosts, it’s our job to roll out the red carpet and make it as memorable as possible.
Really this is a great opportunity for our community to shine as well. For most of the SAC officials and even the teams it will be their first time staying near LMU. Given the tight travel budget and conference match schedules, very few teams actually spend the night in the city where they play. Coaches will often opt to get on the bus after matches and travel two or three hours toward their next competition site and stay in a larger or more affordable local between the two venues.
For our local economy, this tournament means 70+ hotel rooms and the accompanying taxes. Not to mention, meals at local restaurants and shopping. Not only will seven teams be traveling to the area, but also parents, students and fans as well. As a University we are fortunate to have generous supporters from local business owners that never fail to step to the plate when called upon. Restaurants like Subway of Harrogate and Kentucky Fried Chicken and J. Milton’s of Middlesboro. Our entire community and local economy will benefit from this endeavor.
Beyond the boon to the economy, LMU students are also using the tournament as a platform to continue good works in the community. LMU’s Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) are asking fans attending the tournament bring canned food items or make a $1.00 donation to join the fight against hunger in the local community. Each can or dollar donated qualifies the person making the donation to win other items that have been given to help the cause. All donations will go to benefit Servolution Ministries, a non-denominational food pantry located in Speedwell, Tenn.
It promises to be a great weekend for Lady Railsplitter Volleyball, LMU Athletics and the Harrogate and Middlesboro Communities at large. Come on out and show your support. GO SPLITTERS!