Posted by Philip Poole on 2007-11-06

Samford University's volleyball and basketball teams will play their first official games in the new Pete Hanna Center over the next week, culminating three weeks of grand opening events for the new facility.

The Samford volleyball team closes the 2007 regular season scheduled with Ohio Valley Conference matches against Eastern Kentucky University on Nov. 9 and Morehead State University Nov. 10.

The EKU match begins at 7 p.m. Samford plays Morehead State at 2 p.m., and the team's two seniors, Angela Dempski and Robin Bishop, will be recognized prior to the match. Samford is still in the chase for a spot in the conference tournament, so both matches are important.

The Samford women's basketball team opens its home schedule Nov. 13 with a 7:30 p.m. contest against the University of Alabama. Samford has never defeated Alabama in seven tries, including last year's game in Tuscaloosa.

The team has been picked second in the pre-season OVC basketball poll and opens the regular Friday, Nov. 9, at LSU in the Women's NIT preseason tournament.

The Samford men complete the Hanna Center grand opening schedule with a Nov. 15 game against former Atlantic Sun Conference rival Belmont University from Nashville. The game is at 7 p.m. Belmont leads the all-time series with Samford 13-11. The teams last played during the 2002-03 season.

The Bulldog men open the regular season with a 2:30 p.m. game Nov. 11 at the University of Evansville.

"To have this level of competition for our first official athletics events in Hanna Center is great for Samford University," said Bob Roller, director of athletics. "Volleyball is playing the top team in the conference, and basketball plays against teams that are long-time rivals. It is a great way for us to showcase these programs and our new facility."

Roller encouraged Samford fans to attend all four games because of the historic significance and to encourage the teams.

"We only have the chance to open this facility once, and we want to do it on a winning note," he said. "Fan support will be crucial, and we're working to make it an enjoyable experience for our fans."

The first 500 fans for each game will receive a commemorative cup marking the grand opening of Hanna Center, according to Ben Murchison, assistant director of marketing for athletics.

Although Samford's basketball teams played exhibition games Nov. 5 in the arena, this week's events mark the official regular season openers for the new facility, which replaced 46-year-old Seibert Hall.

The new 132,000-square-foot athletics/special events/fitness-wellness facility opened in October with several events, but this week's games are the first official athletics events in the facility, named for Birmingham businessman Pete Hanna. The building includes the 5,000-seat Thomas E. and Marla H. Corts Arena, named for Samford's president emeritus and his wife.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.