FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team faces its first Southeastern Conference road weekend of the season with trips to Knoxville, Tenn., to play No. 21 Tennessee and Athens, Ga., to play Georgia. First serve of the weekend opener against the Lady Volunteers is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT) Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Sunday’s weekend finale against the Bulldogs will start at Noon in the Ramsey Center on the UGA campus.
“You have to be able to bring your home energy to the road,” head coach Robert Pulliza said. “The great teams are able to do that because they know to win championships you have to win on the road. This is going to be our first SEC test on the road against two very good teams. We’re excited about the opportunity because in the SEC every match is tough and we have to be ready for that.”
After the first weekend of SEC play, the Razorbacks are 9-3 overall with a 0-1 tally in conference play. In its last outing, Arkansas opened league play with a five-set loss to No. 13 Florida in front of 3,015 fans at Barnhill Arena. As the No. 21 team in the country, Tennessee will be the Razorbacks’ second-consecutive ranked opponent and third of the season.
Through the first 12 matches of the season, the Arkansas offense has posted a .260 team hitting percentage which is the sixth-best figure in the SEC and ranked 39th in the NCAA. The Razorbacks are also 26th in the country with 14.34 kills per set and 33rd overall with 13.20 assists per set. Defensively, Arkansas is fourth among SEC teams with 15.43 digs per set. This season, the Razorbacks are holding their opponents to a .169 hitting percentage, the fifth-best figure in the SEC.
Arkansas has three players—Kasey Heckelman, Janeliss Torres-Lopez and Roslandy Acosta—ranked in the top 20 of hitting percentage among SEC players. Jasmine Norton paces the team with 3.89 kills per set, the fourth-highest output in the conference. The offense is directed by junior setter Raymariely Santos who is sixth in the conference with 10.27 assists per set.
Defensively, the Razorbacks are led by Torres-Lopez at the net with 1.07 blocks per set and junior libero Emily Helm with 3.95 digs per set. Norton is also ranked among the top 20 defenders in the SEC with 3.07 digs per set. She and Santos are tied for second in the conference with seven double-double performances each.
Tennessee enters the weekend with an 8-3 overall record and 1-1 mark in conference play. The Lady Volunteers split their matches during the first week of conference play with a five-set loss at Missouri and a four-set win at Alabama. Tennessee will be playing its first home match since Aug. 25. With two wins last year against Arkansas, the Lady Volunteers own a 16-14 advantage in the all-time series.
Georgia carries a 7-4 overall record into the weekend and is 1-1 in SEC play. Last weekend, the Bulldogs dropped a straight-set decision to South Carolina in the league opener but responded with a four-set win over Mississippi State in Starkville. Despite a pair of losses last season, the Razorbacks hold a 16-9 lead in the all-time meetings between the two schools.
For weekend match coverage, including interactive blog, live stats and audio stream, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com. This weekend’s matches will also be broadcast on KXUA 88.3 FM in Fayetteville. Fans can also keep up with Razorback volleyball this season with its sport-specific RazorbackVB Twitter and Facebook pages.