Arkansas opens SEC action at Kentucky and TennesseeThe Lady Razorbacks begin Southeastern Conference play this week traveling to Eastern Division rivals Kentucky and Tennessee.
The start of the SEC seasonThe Lady Razorbacks are 4-6 all-time in SEC openers. Arkansas is 3-2 when opening conference play at home and just 1-4 in road league openers. Two of those road losses came at Kentucky – where Arkansas opens this weekend.
About last weekendIt was an up-and-down weekend for the Lady’Backs at Kansas last weekend. Arkansas suffered its first loss of the year with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of No. 16 BYU but rallied to defeat a very good Kansas team on the Jayhawk’s home court winning in five games.
The Best Start?Not quite. Arkansas was 6-0 to start 2006 and that was nearly the best start in the school history. The Lady’Backs began the 2002 season winning their first seven matches. Arkansas was 6-0 in 1996 and again 1999.
More about Koleva — Double UpArkansas senior Denitza Koleva began the season with six consecutive double-doubles for kills and digs. Koleva opened the year with back-to-back 14-kill matches and has posted a season-best 19 kills in a four-game win over Sacramento State. She recorded a career-best 20 digs in a five-game win over Stephen F. Austin and has hit .300 or better in four of the six matches. She was denied in the BYU loss recording 11 kills but only seven digs. She got back on track against Kansas.
Koleva Part IIKoleva posted a season-best 19 kills in the four-game win over Sacramento State on Thursday. She added a career-best 20 digs in the five-game win over Stephen F. Austin.
Show Me The NumbersArkansas’ numbers have been good this year – better than their opponents in most cases. The Lady’Backs have recorded more kills in five of eight matches. The Lady’Backs have out-hit opponents in seven of eight matches and out-dug opponents in four of eight matches. The Lady’Backs have out-blocked opponents in seven of eight matches this year.
Speaking Of The BlockArkansas has out-blocked its opponents in seven of eight matches this year (only BYU has out-blocked Arkansas). The Lady’Backs have posted double-digit blocks in five of eight matches with a season-best 18.0 in the five-game win at Kansas Sept. 9.
Dig ThisArkansas had 101 digs in a five-game win over Stephen F. Austin at the Arkansas Invitational. It was the fifth-time in a five-game match and the ninth time in school history Arkansas has broken the century mark for digs in a match.
On the national sceneThe University of Arkansas has enjoyed a good start to the season and the poll voters have noticed. Arkansas received eight points in this week’s (Sept. 11) CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll. In addition, Arkansas is among the “others listed” in the RichKern.com poll for Sept. 11, checking in at No. 33 with 15 votes.
About KentuckyThe Wildcats are out to a 7-1 start and are a perfect 5-0 on their home court this year. Junior transfer Nicole Britenriker has emerged as the early team leader hitting .323 with a team-best 121 kills and a 4.17 kill per game average. She is also averaged 1.93 digs per game, second only to the libero. Sophomore Queen Nzenwa is a close second with a .310 hitting percentage, 97 kills and 3.34 kpg. As a team, Kentucky is hitting .274 with 16.55 kills per game, 438 digs and 63 total blocks. Kentucky freshman Sarah Rumley was named SEC Freshman of the Week after totaling 202 assists, averaging 13.47 assists per game, to lead Kentucky to four consecutive victories. She averaged .353 for the week, and notched a career-high 10 kills against Morehead State. Rumley was one kill shy of her first career triple double, with 9 kills, 56 assists and 12 digs against Georgia Tech. She was named to the Kentucky Classic All-Tournament Team after the Wildcats went 3-0 to claim the title.
Here are a few other notes from ukathletics.com:Kentucky totaled 17 wins in 2005, the most by a UK team since posting a 29-4 record in 1993. The Wildcats’ 10 Southeastern Conference wins also were the most since a 12-2 record in ‘93. Jenni Casper became the all-time digs leader at Kentucky on Oct. 9, 2005. The senior claimed her second SEC Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2005. She has led the team in digs in every match this season, including a 2006-high 30 vs. San Diego State, and now has 1,578 career digs. The Wildcats incoming recruiting class was ranked 26th in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com.
Arkansas versus the WildcatsArkansas leads the all-time series 12-6 against Kentucky. The Lady’Backs also won the most recent meeting between the teams with a four-game victory at last year’s SEC Tournament. But don’t let the numbers fool you. Kentucky has had the advantage in recent meetings downing Arkansas twice last year.
About No. 13 TennesseeArkansas next runs into a 13th-ranked Tennessee team that is playing very well early in the year. The Lady Vols are 8-1 overall with the lone loss coming at the hands of No. 14 Southern California. The Lady Vols have won three straight and are a perfect 3-0 at home this year. In fact, Knoxville has not been friendly to the visiting team. The Lady Vols are currently in the midst of a 22-match home-winning streak, dating back to the 2004 season. That streak includes wins over No. 18 Texas A&M in 2004, as well as No. 4 Florida and No. 17 Minnesota in 2005. Since the beginning of 2004, the Big Orange is a combined 31-1 (.969) at home, with marks of 15-1 in 2004 and a perfect 13-0 last year. The last team to defeat Tennessee in Knoxville was No. 8 Florida on Oct. 22, 2004.
Arkansas versus the Lady VolsArkansas leads the all-time series with Tennessee 12-6 but Tennessee, ranked in the last two years, has won the last three meetings.
We three in the SECArkansas has played well early in the season but so too has Tennessee and Kentucky. Here’s a look at how these teams stack up against each other in the SEC. Kentucky ranks third in the league in hitting percentage with a .274 mark. Tennessee is four at .268 and Arkansas is a distance 10th with a .227 mark. Kentucky ranks third in the league for assists per game with a 15.52 average, followed by Tennessee in fifth place with 14.12 and Arkansas in eighth with 13.28 apg. Tennessee leads the league in blocking with a 3.50 bpg average followed by Arkansas in third with a 2.91 mark and Kentucky in ninth with a 2.17 average. Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, win-loss percentage. Tennessee ranks fifth in opponent hitting percentage with a .149 average followed by Kentucky in seventh with a .159 mark and Arkansas is 10th with .184. The Wildcats rank third in kills per game averaging 16.55 kpg, followed by No. 5 Tennessee with 15.69 and No. 7 Arkansas with 14.91. The Wildcats rank fourth in service aces followed by No. 9 Tennessee and No. 10 Arkansas and finally, Arkansas ranks third in digs per game with a 16.28 average. Tennessee ranks sixth in the league with 15.50 and Kentucky is seventh at 15.10.
Arkansas individuals in the SECSenior Amy Allison ranks third in the league in blocks per game with a 1.47 average. Redshirt freshman Destiny Clark is fifth averaging 1.25. Sophomore setter Caira Daugherty ranks eighth in the league for assists per game with a 0.47 average and junior Ashley Miller ranks third in the SEC for digs with 4.81 dpg.
Ace, Ace, BabyArkansas’ serving is much stronger in 2006. The Lady’Backs have recorded 40 service aces already this year including 11 aces in the opener against Idaho. Even when the Lady’Backs don’t get an ace serve, the tough serve is taking opponents out of their offense. Sophomore setter Caira Daugherty leads the team with 15 service aces this year. Junior Jessica Dorrell is next with 11 service aces.
Point me in the right directionArkansas has scored more points than its opponent this year. The Lady’Backs have outscored opponents 661-569 including a 180-130 margin in game one. Arkansas has been outscored by its opponents 173-166 in game two, and outscored opponents 167-147 in game three, 117-97 in the fourth game and 31-22 in game five. Senior Denitza Koleva leads Arkansas in points per game with a 4.48 average. Junior Jessica Dorrell is second at 4.21 ppg.
Interesting NumbersArkansas needed 58 kills and 130 attempts to win in four games against Idaho. The Lady’Backs only had one more kill, 59, in the five-game win over Oklahoma and actually had more kills, 60, in a three-game win over North Carolina.
Give the ball to DennySenior Denitza Koleva is a hitting machine and has recorded five of the top 10 individual hitting percentages of 2006. In addition she holds five of the top 10 kill totals and holds the top spot in both categories this year. Koleva hit .444 (16-4-27) against Southeast Missouri State and tallied 19 kills against Sacramento State this year.
Or JessieIf it’s not Denitza Koleva then it’s probably Jessica Dorrell. Dorrell holds three of the top 10 spots for individual hitting percentage this year and four of the top 10 for kills. Her bests are a .367 (13-2-30) hitting percentage against North Carolina and 18 kills versus Stephen F. Austin this year. In addition, the duo hold all five of the top spots for points in match this year. Koleva is first with 22.5 points against Sacramento State followed by Dorrell with 19.5 points against Stephen F. Austin.
The same can be said for MillerAshley Miller dominates the teams digging numbers holding four of the top five marks this year. Miller’s best in 2006 was a 28-dig performance at Kansas. Who is the other player in the top five? Denitza Koleva with a career-best 20 against Stephen F. Austin.
Your money’s worthArkansas has played three five-game matches this year, first at Oklahoma then against Stephen F. Austin in Fayetteville, and finally at Kansas last weekend. Interestingly enough, some of Arkansas’ season-high team numbers have not come from those matches. In fact, Arkansas’ team-best for hitting was a .323 performance against Idaho. In addition, Arkansas’ season-best for kills was 71 in a four-game win over Sacramento State. Arkansas got a season-best 64 assists against Sac State and a season-high 11 service aces against Idaho. Arkansas also posted a season-best 15.0 blocks against Idaho.
New-look SEC scheduleThe Southeastern Conference schedule changed this year and teams will play a double-round robin. Each SEC team plays a home-and-home with the other 10 conference schools, so Arkansas travels to each of the other 10 schools this year and all travel to Fayetteville. The change brings the number of conference matches to 20, up from 16 last year.
Another tough schedule awaits Arkansas faces nine NCAA Tournament teams this year. The schedule is highlighted by Tennessee who reached the semifinals before being eliminated by eventual national champion Washington. Florida advanced to the elite eight and the perennial powerhouse Gators are loaded for the 2005 season. North Carolina, Sacramento State, Kansas, BYU, Kentucky, LSU and Alabama all reached the NCAA Tournament but fell in the first round.
Another note about the scheduleTelevision and a special promotion changed the start time of a pair of Southeastern Conference road volleyball matches.The Lady Razorbacks travel to SEC Western Division rival Alabama on Oct. 6 in a match that was slated for a 7:00 p.m., start. That start time moved to 6:00 p.m. to accommodate the FSN (FOX Sports Net) broadcast of the match.In addition, Arkansas’ match at Florida on Oct. 13 has been moved from a 6:00 p.m., start to 7:30 p.m., as the Gators combine the match with the first basketball practice of the season.
Injury bug bites earlyArkansas is suffering a bit from the injury bug as the preseason practices begin. Sophomore Christina Lawrence had surgery on the second day of practice after tearing her meniscus. She is expected to be sidelined three weeks and the team is looking forward to a possible return the second week of the season.Sophomore Kristin Seaton was lost for the season after an ATV accident this summer. She will redshirt this year but return to campus to attend classes.Senior Denitza Koleva has been slowed with a toe injury that continues to improve each day and senior Amy Allison has been sidelined with back spasms. She is day-to-day.