FAYETTEVILLE– In its final preparations for the Southeastern Conference schedule, the University of Arkansas volleyball team will travel to Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the Middle Tennessee Invitational. For the Razorbacks, play begins Friday against host Middle Tennessee with first serve scheduled for 7 p.m. at Memorial Gymnasium. In addition to Arkansas and MTSU, the event field includes the teams from Alabama-Birmingham and Albany.
In their last outing, the Razorbacks dropped a five-set decision to Oklahoma on its home court at Barnhill Arena. The match was played in front of a crowd of 1,272, the second-largest home attendance in program history. Despite the loss, junior Kelli Stipanovich tallied a season-high 18 kills with a .630 hitting percentage, the third-highest mark by an SEC player this season.
Cassie Clarke enters the weekend off her first double-double effort of the year. The sophomore setter notched 43 assists and a team-high 11 digs against the Sooners. In reserve duty, sophomore Amanda Anderson led a group of four players with seven kills-Anderson, Kendall Cleveland, Hayley Koop and Jasmine Norton. The Razorbacks are hitting .239 as a team through the first eight matches of the season and Norton is fourth in the conference with 3.70 kills per set.
Arkansas’ presence at the net continues to improve, outblocking OU with 10.0 total team blocks. The freshmen duo of Alex Fitzmorris and Charmaine Whitmore lead the team with 0.97 and 0.84 blocks per set, respectively. In her last three matches, Whitmore is averaging 5.3 blocks per contest. As a team, the Razorbacks average 2.11 blocks per set.
Collectively, Arkansas has a 3-0 record against the field at the MTSU Invitational. The Razorbacks have beaten UAB on two occasions, the last coming in the 2001 season, and knocked off Middle Tennessee in straight sets in the only meeting between the two programs. This weekend will mark the first matchup between Arkansas and Albany.
Middle Tennessee carries a 4-4 record through the first two weeks of the 2010 season. In its last outing, MTSU posted a straight-set victory at Kansas. The Blue Raiders advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year, losing a five setter to Colorado State in the opener. MTSU has appeared in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. For the third time in the past four seasons, Middle Tennessee was voted by league coaches to win the Sun Belt Eastern Division title.
Albany (3-3) comes into the tournament off a three-set win over Bowling Green last weekend at the Campus USA Credit Union Classic in Gainesville, Fla. In the preseason polls of the America East Conference, the Great Danes were picked to finish second in the league, just two points behind first-place favorite Binghamton. The Razorbacks and Albany take the court Saturday at 1 p.m.
Alabama-Birmingham (2-4), the Hogs’ final opponent of the weekend, dropped two of three matches last weekend at the Bama Bash in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Blazers lost to Furman and Alabama, both in four sets, and picked up a straight-set win against Toledo. UAB has yet to play a home match in 2010. In 2006, the Blazers won the Conference USA Tournament championship.
To follow the Razorbacks’ progress at the MTSU Invitational, an audio stream, interactive in-match blog and live stats will be available at ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Arkansas’ next home match, Sept. 17 against Georgia, will mark the start of the conference season.
Download: Notes 5_MTSU Invitational.pdf