Starting the season with less than a week for preparation, Northeastern A&M Lady Norse travel to El Dorado, Kan., Friday, to play in the two-day Butler County Community College Lady Grizzlies Volleyball Invitational Tournament.

“With only one gymnasium available, our court time has been very limited, Lady Norse head coach Eric Iverson said. “So we're looking at this tournament as an opportunity to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Competing at the NJCAA Division II level for the first time last season, the Lady Norse lost in the opening round of the District P Tournament at Cottey College in Nevada, Mo., to finish 11-12 on the season. During Iverson's five seasons as head coach, the Lady Norse are 75-77 overall.

Teams competing in the Butler County Tournament along with NEO and Butler County include Dodge City, Independence, Coffeyville, Hesston, Pratt and Cedar Valley, Mo.

The Lady Norse open the tournament Friday with a 3 p.m. pool play match against Independence Community College. NEO squares off against the host Butler County Lady Grizzlies at 5 p.m.

Pool play continues Saturday with the Lady Norse meeting Dodge City at 9 a.m. The fourth place teams in pools A and B and the third place teams will face elimination at 1 p.m. Immediately following the second and first place teams in the two pools will play.

NEO will make back-to-back trips to Iola, Kan. on Aug. 31 for a triangular match with Allen County Community College and Southeast, Neb. Community College before returning to Iola on Sept. 1 for the Allen County Invitational Tournament.

The Lady Norse open the home portion of their schedule Sept. 10 by hosting Coffeyville Community College at 6 p.m. in the Student Activities Center.

“Since the July 4 flood, there has been quite a scheduling strain put on the SAC, Iverson said. “Now that women's and men's basketball are sharing practice time with us, it's been a challenge to get court time.

“We're an extremely young volleyball team with only two returning sophomore, Iverson said. “But, we have some size and a whole lot of natural ability.

Returning to bolster the Lady Norse front line are veteran middle hitter Abby Collier (5-8 of Carl Junction, Mo.) and outside hitter Jamie Crane (5-8 of Wheaton, Mo.).

Collier recorded 99 kills and 19 aces with 102 digs in 69 games last season. She also contributed 26 blocks.

Crane appeared in 54 games and recorded 61 kills, five aces, 17 digs and eight blocks.

“Both these girls saw considerable playing time as freshmen, Iverson said. “They provide us with a solid leadership core to build around.

Joining the Lady Norse after a stellar career with the women's basketball program is outside/middle hitter Nathalia Araujo (6-0 of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

“Nathalia is a natural athlete with great leaping ability, Iverson said. “She should be a real force on the front line.

Freshmen Jordan Bickett (5-6 of Webb City, Mo.) and Rachel Moreno (5-3 of Tulsa Hale) will handle the setter responsibilities while Megan Copeland (5-5 of Seneca, Mo.).

Expected to share court time as outside hitters are freshmen Tayverie Hamilton (5-9 of Tahlequah), Cheryl Steed (5-9 of Owasso), Amber Quales (5-7 of Baxter Springs, Kan.) and Karina Trindade (5-10 of Sau Paulo, Brazil).

Freshman Stacy Peek (5-11 of Webb City, Mo.) should see considerable playing time as middle hitter.

“We still have matches with Northern Oklahoma-Enid and Redlands College to schedule, Iverson said. “We should have a complete schedule within a few days.

The schedule

August - 24-25, at Butler County, Kan. Tournament; 31, at Allen County, Kan. (triangular).

September - 1, at Allen County, Kan. Tournament; 10, Coffeyville, Kan.; 14, at Fort Scott, Kan. (triangular); 17, Allen County, Kan.; 19, at Cottey College, Mo.; 20, Longview, Mo.; 22, pre-regional tournament at Kansas City, Mo.

October - 8, Fort Scott, Kan.; 15, at Coffeyville, Kan.; 18, at Longview, Mo.; 24, at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith; 29, at Cottey College, Mo.

November - 8, District Tournament, TBA; 11-17, NJCAA Division II National Tournament, Scottsdale, Ariz.