DAYTON, Ohio — Dayton women's volleyball finished 30-2 last season. No Division I volleyball program had a better winning percentage.

The Flyers, who start the 2017 season Friday with an 11 a.m. match against Cal Poly in the Northern Illinois Invitational, could be even better this fall, even if their record isn't.

"I think obviously a lot of people are expecting a lot from our kids and our program," coach Tim Horsmon said, "and I think the starting point is probably as high as it's been, but our schedule is a lot tougher. I doubt you'll see that type of record because of who we are playing. But we want to get better. We have an opportunity to be even better than we were last year."

By that, Horsmon means Dayton could match up better on a national level with some of the best teams in the country. Dayton ranked 33rd in the RPI last season.

Dayton didn't have to worry about earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament because it won the Atlantic 10 tournament in 2016. A tougher schedule could put Dayton in position to earn an at-large bid this season just in case it doesn't win the conference tournament this year.

Dayton hosts Iowa State and Pittsburgh, two teams in the top 40 of the RPI, at the Dayton Invitational on Sept. 1-3. Cincinnati, Western Kentucky and Ohio State are other top 40 teams on the schedule.

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Dayton, which had no seniors a year ago, returns everyone who played 90 sets or more last season: senior setter Jane Emmenecker; senior outside hitter Jessica Sloan; senior defensive specialist/setter Maggie Schutter; senior defensive specialist Laura Hubacek; senior middle blocker Amber Erhahon; junior outside hitter Lauren Bruns; junior middle blocker Kendyll Brown; junior defensive specialist/libero Margo Wolf; and sophomore outside hitter Jamie Peterson.

"I think for our upperclassmen, it's really about how much they've improved mentally and emotionally and how driven they are," Horsmon said. "I think they all had pretty solid summers. I think they're really excited about the season. I think they've all grown."

As good as the Flyers were last season, their year ended on a down note with a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh at Penn State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Dayton won the first set 25-20, but lost the second 25-19. Dayton led the third set 23-17 before losing 27-25. Pittsburgh won the final set 25-19.

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"If think if we go up 2-1, that match looks differently," Horsmon said. "I think we have some motivated kids. We have some mature kids. We have kids who have won a lot of matches in the program. We excited to see how they step up to the challenge of a tough schedule and how they perform in the moment."

This article is written by David Jablonski from The Dayton Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.