WILMINGTON, North Carolina – The UNCW volleyball team opens the 2013 season this weekend as it takes part in the Kristen Dickman Invitational.

The Seahawks open both the season and the two-day event Friday with a 7 p.m. match against host Navy before wrapping up their appearance Saturday with contests against future Colonial Athletic Association foe Elon (1 p.m.) and UIC (4 p.m.).

Live stats will be available for all three matches while the Seahawks contest against Navy will be shown for free on the Patriot League Network. Links for both can be found on UNCWsports.com.

Under the guidance of fifth-year Head Coach Amy Bambenek, UNCW welcomes back five starters and 11 letterwinners from last season’s squad that posted an 11-17 overall record. Senior Christi Laite, a two-time Second-Team All-CAA selection, is back for her final season after leading team in kills (2.81) and points (3.31) per set in 2012. Senior defensive specialist Haley Collins also returns after pacing the team in digs per frame (3.58) last season. Bambenek will also have plenty of fresh faces on the bench this weekend as seven newcomers will make their UNCW debut during the Kristen Dickman Invitational.

Picked sixth in the Southern Conference preseason coaches’ poll, Elon returns nine players and four starters from its 2012 squad that went 16-16 overall, including a 9-7 mark in league play. SoCon All-Freshman Team selection Meagan Gravley is back following a freshman campaign that saw her led the team in both total kills (350) and kills per set (3.04).  Junior Kris Harris is also back in the lineup after pacing the team with 95 total blocks and a .243 hitting percentage in 2012.  

Host Navy sees five starters and 11 letterwinners return from last season’s squad that posted an 11-15 overall mark and a 7-7 ledger in Patriot League action. Tabbed fifth in the preseason coaches poll, the Midshipmen will be led offensively by senior Erin Fortner, who earned First-Team All-Patriot League honors in 2012 after pacing the team in kills per set (3.36). Junior Alex Cassel will also be counted on to provide depth to the Navy attack following a sophomore campaign that saw her lead the Patriot League in hitting percentage (.291).

Horizon League member UIC brings back eight letterwinners from its 2012 squad that finish second to Cleveland State in both the regular season and conference tournament. Senior setter MaryKate Imrie was a preseason All-Horizon League selection after dishing out a league-leading 1,377 assists last season. Junior Maggie Strus will look to top her record-setting sophomore campaign that saw her establish a new school mark for total digs (600) on her way to earning All-Tournament Team accolades at the Horizon League Championship.

UNCW returns to action next weekend in the FIU Classic in Miami, Fla. The Seahawks will face Alabama, Houston Baptist and the host Panthers in the event slated for Sept. 6-7.