– The University of Arkansas volleyball team will begin its 19th season of competition Friday by hosting the Arkansas Invitational at Barnhill Arena. The season-opening event is the first of two home tournaments this season for the Razorbacks. The field for the Arkansas Invitational will include UT-Martin, Northwestern State and Kansas.
The Razorbacks will play UT-Martin in Friday’s opener and return to the court Saturday for matches with Northwestern State and Kansas, respectively. Arkansas leads the all-time series with UT-Martin, 2-0; trails in the series with Kansas, 2-3; and will be meeting Northwestern State for the first time. First serve of Friday’s match against the Skyhawks is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT).
“We’re opening up with a really good tournament,” fifth-year head coach Robert Pulliza
said. “UT-Martin, our first opponent, is a team that’s known for their defense. Last year, they averaged over 18 digs per set, one of the best numbers in the country. Northwestern State, our second opponent, returns five starters including the (reigning) Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, so we’ll have our hands full with them. With Kansas, they return six starters including their libero and they’re going to be really physical.
“We’re excited because we set up the tournament to get some good competition. We brought in teams that, in terms of the RPI, should be successful later in the season. This will be a great opportunity to see where we are as a team.”
Arkansas returns 10 letterwinners from last season, including five starters and its libero. The Razorbacks’ list of returners includes Roslandy Acosta
, Christa Alvarez
, Amanda Anderson
, Kasey Heckelman
, Marci King
, Hayley Koop
, Jasmine Norton
, Clarissa Pavey
, Raymariely Santos
and Janeliss Torres-Lopez
The team’s incoming class of freshmen was named the No. 26 group in the country by PrepVolleyball.com, the highest recruiting ranking in program history. That class includes Monica Bollinger
, Liz Fortado
, Ana Sofia Jusino
, Summer Morgan
and Adrien Wohlschlaeger
. Arkansas also added junior transfers Emily Helm
, Avery Lewis
and Ashley Vazquez
during the offseason.
In the preseason release by the Southeastern Conference, the Razorbacks were picked to finish third in the Western Division. The top three teams in the division, along with LSU and conference newcomer Texas A&M, were separated by just seven points in the coaches’ poll. Individually, Norton was named to the Preseason All-SEC Team for the third time in her career.
Reserved season tickets for the year are $50 while first-time buyers can get tickets for $29. First-time season ticket buyers will also receive $20 worth of concession stand coupons for Sodexho. Tickets can be purchased online, at the Razorback Ticket Office on Razorback Road or by calling 1-800-982-HOGS (4647).
General admission at Barnhill Arena is $4. Fans 17 years and younger get in free. University of Arkansas students attending volleyball matches this season are asked to use the street-level entrance on Stadium Drive to enter Barnhill Arena. Those students who have their cards swiped will receive 1,500 RazorReward points. Students attending the Kansas match Saturday will also have the opportunity to win an iPod Touch.
For match coverage of this weekend’s Arkansas Invitational, including interactive blog, live stats and video stream, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com. All three of the Razorbacks’ matches will also be broadcast on KXUA 88.3 FM in Fayetteville. New to the 2012 season, fans can also keep up with Razorback volleyball with its sport-specific Razorback VB Twitter and Facebook accounts.