FRISCO, Texas – All 13 Southland Conference volleyball programs are in action for opening weekend with matches, marking the beginning of the Southland’s 38th season in conference history.Action begins at 10 a.m. Friday morning with a trio of games showcasing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Central Arkansas and Stephen F. Austin. The Islanders will take on UT Arlington in Houston, Texas, while the Sugar Bears are slated to open play at the Georgetown Classic against Rider University in Washington D.C. In Friday morning’s final 10 a.m. match, the Ladyjacks are set for a bout against UTSA at the SMU Doubletree Invitational in Dallas, Texas.SFA is picked to grab its third consecutive regular-season conference title following the announcement of the league’s 2019 preseason poll.The 2019 Southland Conference Tournament will be hosted in Conway, Ark. by Central Arkansas, Nov. 22-24. This season will mark the fourth time since the 2012 season for the Sugar Bears to play host for the conference tournament. UCA’s last tournament title came in the 2012 season on its home court.Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks – Preseason Ranking: 1 | 2018 Record/Place: 32-3 (16-0 SLC), 1stThe Ladyjacks will look to retain their crown after an outstanding 2018 campaign that culminated in a 32-3 overall record, a flawless 16-0 run through their conference schedule and a Southland Tournament title. Debbie Humphreys earned her second consecutive Katrinka Jo Crawford Southland Coach of the Year award her team returns a pair of all-conference selections, middle blocker Danae Daron and libero Ann Hollas. SFA led the league last season with 320 total blocks and 2.67 blocks per match. The Ladyjacks’ defense flustered opponents from all over the court last season, limiting teams to a .144 hitting percentage. Stephen F. Austin will open up play Friday in Dallas, Texas at the SMU Doubletree Invitational against UTSA and Bradley. The opening weekend will conclude for the Ladyjacks with a 2 p.m. showdown against SMU Saturday afternoon.Central Arkansas Sugar Bears – Preseason Ranking: 2 | 2018 Record/Place: 26-7 (14-2), 2ndThe Sugar Bears enter the 2019 season as the No. 2 team in the conference preseason poll, led by second-team preseason all-conference selection Elizabeth Armstrong. Central Arkansas will have the opportunity to capture a tournament title on its home court as host to the Southland Tournament for the first time since the 2016 postseason. Head coach Jen Jones Chatman and her squad led the conference last season in a trio of categories, including hitting percentage (.244), kills (1,621) and assists (1,519). The Sugar Bears are set to open up their 2019 schedule with a 10 a.m. tilt against Rider University Friday at the Georgetown Classic in Washington D.C. UCA will follow up with a 4 p.m. showdown against Central Connecticut State Friday, then close out opening-weekend play Saturday against Sacred Heart and Georgetown at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.Sam Houston State Bearkats – Preseason Ranking: 3 | 2018 Record/Place: 22-8 (13-3), 3rdSam Houston State’s season starts at home with the SHSU Invitational, where the Bearkats will take on Prairie View A&M Friday at 6:30 p.m. SHSU’s three-game weekend will continue Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. against Louisiana Tech, followed by a match against Oral Roberts at 6:30 p.m. The Bearkats closed out their 2018 season as the No. 3 seed at the Southland Tournament, where they advanced to the second round of play. Coach Brenda Gray returns to the court with one preseason all-conference selection in second teamer Breanne Chausse. Among the returning players on the Sam Houston State roster, Chausse led the way last season with 266 kills and 66 blocks. The Bearkats’ unit also combined for a league-best 1,909 digs, en route to a 13-3 conference record for the 2018 campaign.Houston Baptist Huskies – Preseason Ranking: 4 | 2018 Record/Place: 16-16 (8-8), T-5thHouston Baptist rounded out preseason voting as the No. 4 team, while tying with SFA for a league-best three preseason all-conference selections. Houston Baptist will be led into the season by preseason all-conference selections Mikayla Vivens, Kelly Colwell and Megan Patillo. Vivens accounted for 33 of the Huskies’ league-leading 202 aces in the 2018 campaign, averaging 1.03 per match. The Huskies will open their 2019 slate at home as they host the 2019 Barcelona Sports Invitational inside Sharp Gym. On opening day, HBU will take on Bethune-Cookman Friday at 12:30 p.m., followed by a tilt against Radford at 6:30 p.m. The Huskies’ lone Saturday contest will come against UT Rio Grande Valley at 2:30 p.m.Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders – Preseason Ranking: 5 | 2018 Record/Place: 9-21 (8-8 SLC), T-5thTexas A&M-Corpus Christi cruises into its 2019 season as the No. 5 ranked team, receiving three first-place votes in the Southland’s preseason poll. The Islanders landed a pair of players on the preseason all-conference rosters with senior Madison Green gaining an automatic bid onto the first team and sophomore Julia Carter claiming a position on the second team. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s season opens up with a 10 a.m. showdown against UT Arlington, followed by a 7 p.m. contest against Houston at the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup in Houston, Texas. The Islanders will cap their opening weekend of play against Arizona State Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi averaged 12.3 kills per set for a collective 1,365 kills last season.Abilene Christian Wildcats – Preseason Ranking: 6 | 2018 Record/Place: 13-16 (10-6), 4thAbilene Christian is ready for action this weekend at the Omaha Challenge in Omaha, Neb. The Wildcats will take on host school Omaha Friday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. before squaring off against Albany at 4:30 p.m. ACU will close out the weekend against Idaho State Saturday morning at 11 a.m. Heading into the 2019 season, the Wildcats will lean on preseason all-conference selection Katelyn Mueller, who is entering her junior season as an outside hitter. Mueller played and started in all 29 of ACU’s games last season, racking up 300 kills and 323 digs.Northwestern State Lady Demons – Preseason Ranking: 7 | 2018 Record/Place: 12-15 (8-8), T-5thNorthwestern State enters the season No. 7, according to Southland preseason rankings. The Lady Demons will begin their 2019 slate at the Arkansas Invitational with a pair of games on Friday against Arkansas (12 p.m.) and Montana State (6 p.m.), followed by a match against Little Rock Saturday at 1 p.m. Hannah Brister leads NSU into the season with a preseason first-team all-conference nod. Brister and her Lady Demons squad finished the 2018 season ranked third in the Southland for hitting percentage (.200). Led by head coach Sean Kiracofe, Northwestern State has qualified for the conference tournament in each of the past three seasons.McNeese Cowgirls – Preseason Ranking: 8 | 2018 Record/Place: 10-22 (8-8), T-5thMcNeese will travel to Moon Township, Pa. for the RMU Sheraton Invitational, hosted by Robert Morris, for opening weekend action. The Cowgirls will begin with a 2 p.m. showdown against Elon on Friday, followed by a pair of games on Saturday against Manhattan and Robert Morris at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively. Keegan Nelms headlines the McNeese roster heading into the season opener after earning automatic preseason first-team all-conference accolades. Caitlin Sharrock, Allison Lippert and Katelyn Elliott are also returning for the Cowgirls as starters from the 2018 season. Sharrock (9) and Nelms (8) led McNeese in double-double performances throughout last season.UIW Cardinals – Preseason Ranking: 9 | 2018 Record/Place: 10-17 (7-9), 9thUIW, led by second-year head coach Samantha Dabbs, begins its season at the I-10 Challenge in Lafayette, La. The Cardinals will open up against host Louisiana Friday at 1:30 p.m., followed by a bout later that afternoon against Tulane at 4 p.m. UIW’s final game of the weekend will come against UTEP Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Bethany Clapp secured a preseason first-team all-conference selection as she enters her sophomore campaign for the Cardinals. UIW has four starters returning from last season, including Clapp and Julia Monday at the outside hitter positions, Pilar Gonzaba as a setter and middle blocker Carissa McGarity.New Orleans Privateers – Preseason Ranking: 10 | 2018 Record/Place: 12-19 (6-10), 10thNew Orleans will host a tournament this weekend as North Dakota, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas – Pine Bluff head to The Crescent City for the UNO Invitational. The Privateers will open up their schedule against North Dakota Friday morning at 11 a.m., followed by a match against ULM later that evening at 7 p.m. Opening weekend festivities will conclude for New Orleans against UAPB, with a 2 p.m. serve Saturday afternoon. Ehize Omoghibo, the 2018 Southland Newcomer of the Year, is back for the Privateers and is one of six returners on roster.Lamar Cardinals – Preseason Ranking: 11 | 2018 Record/Place: 7-20 (4-12), 11thLamar’s season begins in Atlanta, Ga., where the Cardinals will compete in a trio of games at the Georgia State University Invitational. Led by second-year head coach Michelle Kuester, LU will play a single game against Fordham, Friday at 4 p.m. The next day, the Cards will take on host team Georgia State at 12 p.m., followed by a match against Western Carolina at 4 p.m.Nicholls Colonels – Preseason Ranking: 12 | 2018 Record/Place: 3-26 (1-15), T-12thThe Colonels’ season will open this weekend at the Mercer Bears Classic in Macon, Ga., where they are slated for a double-header against Mercer and Campbell on Friday at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. Opening weekend action will conclude for Nicholls with an 11 a.m. match against Georgia Southern Saturday. Head coach Kallie Noble will be leading her Colonels squad through an 11-game non-conference schedule in her first season at the helm.Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions – Preseason Ranking: 13 | 2018 Record/Place: 2-27 (1-15), T-12thSoutheastern Louisiana will close out the opening weekend of play for the Southland with three games at the Jax State Invitational in Jacksonville, Ala. First up for the Lady Lions is a double-header on Friday against Troy and East Tennessee State at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. SLU is being led by first-year head coach Jeremy White, who took over the Lady Lions program at the conclusion of the 2018 season.