ARKANSAS OPENS AT COLORADO STATEThe 2008 season is officially underway. The Razorback volleyball team reported to campus Friday, Aug. 8, for meetings and photos followed by the first official practice Saturday, Aug. 9. Since that time, Arkansas has been busy at mostly two-a-day practices in preparation for the 2008 season. The Razorbacks kick off the season against No. 17 Friday in the Rams home gym. Arkansas faces Denver and Eastern Washington on Saturday.
OLD FACES RETURN TO THE ROSTERArkansas returns 10 players from last year but get your flow chart and try to keep up with this. Six players played on the team in 2007. Four of them were regulars in the lineup. Those four are senior Christina Lawrence, juniors Lindsay Scanlan and Kristin Seaton and sophomore Heather Royal. Sophomore Hillary McCormick and senior Karen Tang are also returning this year. Phoebe Bautista and Lauren Fielding were also squad members last year but both redshirted the 2007 season. Junior Destiny Clark did not play last year due to injury and then battled illness in the late summer. She was cleared for practice prior to the first reporting date. Also returning is Caira Dortch. The former Caira Daugherty did not play last season and was married in late May.
ARKANSAS IN THE OPENERSThe Razorbacks are good in their season openers. Arkansas is 10-4 all-time in the first match of the year. The Razorbacks are 9-5 in road openers with three of the five losses coming at the hands of nationally-ranked opponents (No. 5 Nebraska, 1996; No. 2 Penn State, 2000; No. 14 Colorado State, 2001).
LAWRENCE LEADS RAZORBACKSSenior Christina Lawrence returns in 2008 as one of two seniors and the on-the-court leader of the team. Lawrence hit a season-best .303 in all matches and .292 in SEC matches last year. Lawrence will likely play all-around this year as well for the first time at Arkansas.
I’M DIGGIN’ ITArkansas’ most decorated libero, Ashley Miller, graduated last year leaving the Razorbacks as the school and SEC record-holder in nearly every dig category. Head coach Robert Pulliza and staff will rely on some youngsters to lead serve-receive this year. Redshirt freshman Phoebe Bautista, redshirt sophomore Lauren Fielding and true freshman Mackenzie Rhea will all vie for the starting spot at libero this year.
WHAT ABOUT BURGE?Freshman Brooke Burge should have been among the liberos listed above but a preseason (pre-practice) knee injury has Burge sidelined.
RAZORBACKS WELCOME NEW COACHESRobert Pulliza takes over as just the second head coach in Arkansas volleyball history in 2008. Pulliza joins the Razorbacks after four seasons as an assistant and associate head coach at Southeastern Conference foe Kentucky. Pulliza has also coached at Wisconsin, Texas and has international experience. Pulliza is joined by assistant coaches Kris Grunwald and Carol Price. Grunwald is also no stranger to the SEC having been an assistant at Ole Miss and Auburn as well as the head coach at Auburn. Price is a former UTSA assistant and Texas A&M player.
NEW FACES ON ARKANSAS ROSTERArkansas welcomes three newcomers for 2008. Freshmen Brooke Burge and Kelli Stipanovich were part of the recruiting class. Sophomore Mackenzie Rhea worked out with the team in the spring and was invited by Pulliza and staff to stay.
ABOUT THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTSNO. 17 COLORADO STATEColorado State enters 2008 picked first in the Mountain West and ranked 17th in the country in the preseason poll. The Rams return 10 players from last year’s NCAA Tournament second round team including five defensive specialists all of whom are talented enough to start. CSU also has three tough outside hitters paced by Danielle Minch. She is joined by Jacque Davisson and Jaime Strauss. The trio will give CSU a lot of offensive options this year. Arkansas is 1-2 lifetime against the Rams and suffered a 1-3 loss in the most recent meeting Sept. 14, 2002.
DENVERThe Denver Pioneers return 11 letterwinners and five starters from a team that was 22-12 a year ago. The Pioneers won their conference title with a 15-3 record. The Pioneers hit .230 as a team paced by returning senior Kerry Porter who hit .283. This is the first meeting between Arkansas and Denver.
EASTERN WASHINGTONThe Eastern Washington Eagles open their season in Colorado as well. The Eagles finished third in the Big Sky Conference with a 12-4 mark, marking its 12th-straight top-three season, and advanced to the league semifinals for the 11th-consecutive campaign. Eastern Washington returns all six starters plus the libero from that squad. This year, EWU is picked fourth in the conference preseason poll. This is the first meeting between Arkansas and EWU.
ARKANSAS ADJUSTS SCHEDULEArkansas was scheduled to play Xavier as part of the Georgia Tech/Regency Suites Classic next weekend but the match has been cancelled. Xavier will likely be on Arkansas’ schedule in the coming years.
NEXT WEEK’S SCHEDULEArkansas continues to practice throughout the week before departing Thursday for Atlanta, Ga., and the second of three pre-SEC tournaments. The Razorbacks are scheduled to face Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Michigan.
NATIONAL COLORS DAY The University of Arkansas, in association with other colleges and universities around the country, is proud to participate in National College Colors Day 2008 to be held this Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. College Colors Day, which coincides with both “back to campus” and the kick-off of the intercollegiate athletics season, strives to promote higher education through increased public awareness and celebrates the achievements of colleges and universities, acknowledging their critical and fundamental importance to the United States.College Colors Day is quickly becoming an annual dress-down day where individuals show their school spirit for companies and organizations across the country – a casual Friday the day prior to the first full Saturday of college football season. With the participation of thousands of companies and the support of hundreds of colleges and universities, College Colors Day 2008 will be a nation-wide celebration of the collegiate spirit. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe recently proclaimed Aug. 29, 2008 College Colors Day in the State of Arkansas. Fans, students, and alumni throughout the State of Arkansas are encouraged by Governor Beebe’s Proclamation to wear apparel representing their favorite college or university on Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. For more information on College Colors Day 2008, visit www.collegecolorsday.com.