About ArkansasThe Lady Razorbacks earned an at-large selection to the 2004 NCAA Tournament via a selection show Sunday, Nov. 28, on ESPN News. The Lady Razorbacks (17-15) face host and 16th seed Missouri (19-8) in the first round at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo., Friday, Dec. 3, at 6:00 p.m. The winner of the Arkansas/Missouri match faces the winner of the Illinois/Louisville match Saturday, Dec. 4, at 6:00 p.m. The second round winner advances to the Regional at Louisville, Ky., the following weekend.
Arkansas and the NCAA TournamentThe Lady Razorbacks are making their seventh NCAA Tournament trip since adding volleyball 11 seasons ago in 1994. The Lady’Backs were in the post-season in 1994 and 1995 at the NIVC Tournament in Kansas City, Mo., and reached their first NCAA Tournament in 1996 in a field of 48 teams. Arkansas made four consecutive post-season appearances (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999) and reached the East Regional in 1998. Arkansas was back in the tournament in 1999, 2001 and 2003.
At the NCAA TournamentArkansas is 6-6 all-time at the NCAA Tournament. The Lady’Backs were 1-1 in 1996 and again in 1997 before going 2-1 in 1998. Arkansas was again 1-1 in 1999, lost in the first round in 2001 and was 1-1 last year.
Who ya Playin?Arkansas has faced 11 different opponents in 12 post-season matches. The Lady’Backs have faced Kansas State twice in the post-season, first in 2001 and again in 2003, losing both contests. Other opponents for the Lady’Backs in the post-season include Rhode Island, Nebraska, Arkansas-Little Rock, Notre Dame, New Hampshire, Indiana, Hawai’i, Georgetown, Long Beach State and Southwest Missouri State.
Where ya Playin?The Lady’Backs travel to Columbia, Mo., for the first time in post-season. Other NCAA Tournament sites for the Lady’Backs include Fayetteville (1996, 1997, 1998); Lincoln, Neb. (1996), Gainesville, Fla. (1998); Long Beach, Calif. (1999) and Manhattan, Kan. (2001, 2003).
Nothing NewThis year marks the first post-season trip to Columbia, Mo., for Arkansas but not the first time Arkansas has been a guest of the Tigers. The Lady’Backs opened last season at the 2004 Quality Inn Invitational hosted by Missouri in the Hearnes Center. Arkansas went 1-2 in the opening weekend, defeating Toledo and falling to Montana State and No. 21 Missouri (15-30, 18-30, 30-26, 16-30).
Arkansas Against the Tournament FieldThe Lady Razorbacks are just 3-10 against the 64 teams in this year’s tournament. Arkansas has played Kansas, Pacific, No. 22 Santa Clara, No. 6 Washington, Wichita State, No. 9 Illinois, No. 5 Florida (twice), Georgia (twice), Valparaiso and No. 10 Tennessee (twice) [ranking at the time the teams played]. Arkansas’ wins came over Pacific, Georgia and Valparaiso this year.
Numbers On ParDespite the 3-10 record against teams who were invited to Dance, Arkansas’ overall numbers were about average compared to the rest of the season. The Lady’Backs hit .164 with 741 kills, 662 assists, 826 digs and 147.5 total blocks for a 2.78 block-per-game average.
Told Ya We Had A Tough ScheduleArkansas head coach Chris Poole has been talking about the challenging schedule the young Lady’Backs face all season. The Lady’Backs had a slow start to the year opening with a 2-8 record in its first 10 games but Arkansas faced nine teams who were named in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason poll during that stretch. That challenging pre-conference schedule ranks 10th in the country this year and was tops among the SEC. In addition, the Lady’Backs faced better competition in the SEC this year than in the previous 10 seasons. In fact, the SEC is significantly stronger this year and is currently the third-ranked conference in the country according to an unofficial RPI rating. The Big Ten Conference has seven teams ranked in the top 50 according to Rich Kern’s RPI index. The Big 12 is next with six teams in the top 50 followed by the SEC also with six teams. In addition the SEC has had six teams get nine wins over Top 50 teams this year. Finally, Arkansas has had the fourth most matches played against teams in the top 50 this year. Big Ten member Minnesota and Pacific-10 Pepperdine were first in the country with 18 matches versus the top teams. Michigan State was third with 17 followed by Arkansas with 16 this season.
About Missouri (from mutigers.com)The Missouri (19-8) volleyball team earned its fifth-consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament and will host first and second round matches at the Hearnes Center next weekend. Mizzou is the No. 16 seed in the tournament. Mizzou advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of the previous four seasons. Last season, the Tigers fell to UC-Irvine in the first round of the tournament in Los Angeles, Calif. In 2003, they recorded their first postseason win in school history by defeating Northwestern in the opening round of the tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa before falling to Northern Iowa in the second round. In 2001, MU lost to Illinois in round one and in 2000, Utah knocked out Missouri in the opening round. Missouri is hitting .288 as a team and averaging 2.63 blocks per game. The Tigers are paced by Lisa Boyd who is hitting .392 with 266 kills. Four players are hitting better than .300 on the year. The Tigers and Lady’Backs had two common opponents this year. Missouri defeated Mississippi State and Kansas while Arkansas has a pair of wins over the Lady Rebels and lost the season opener to Kansas in Barnhill Arena.
Arkansas versus the TigersArkansas is on the up-side of a 2-1 record over Missouri. The Lady’Backs won the first two meetings in Fayetteville, first in 1995 and again in 1999. Missouri captured the four-game win Columbia, last year.
About Illinois (from fightingillini.com)Illinois has been invited to its 16th NCAA Tournament in women’s volleyball. The Illini, who finished the regular season with a 19-10 record and placed fifth in the Big Ten, will play Louisville (28-2) in the opening round at 4 p.m. Friday. The match with Louisville is a re-match of last year’s second round with Illinois prevailing 30-26, 30-26, 32-30 at Huff Hall to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16. The Illini are 6-1 all-time against the Cardinals. In 15 prior trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Illini have advanced to 11 Sweet 16s, including two under Don Hardin – in 1998 and 2003. Hardin has led Illinois to NCAA berths in 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2003. Illinois has two wins over Top Ten opponents in 2004 – USC and Ohio State
Arkansas versus the Fighting IlliniThe Arkansas-Illinois series tipped in the Illini’s favor, 2-1. The Lady’Backs lost the first meeting between the teams in Champaign in 1997 in three games. Arkansas won the re-match in Fayetteville in four when the Illini were ranked No. 22 in the country. The teams met again this year in Barnhill with No. 9 Illinois winning in four, 22-30, 31-29, 20-30, 29-31.
About LouisvilleLouisville enters the tournament ranked 20th in the country with a 28-2 overall record. The Cardinals two losses came from Arizona and Tennessee this year. Louisville is hitting .318 this year while holding opponents to a .140 mark and the Cardinals have won 20 in a row (19 of which were in three games).
Arkansas versus LouisvilleThe Lady’Backs and the Cardinals have met once before with Louisville handing Arkansas a three-game, 28-30, 22-30, 27-30, loss in Fayetteville last year.
The SEC Really Is BetterArkansas head coach Chris Poole has been telling everyone that the Southeastern Conference is better this year. He seems to be right with four league teams earning trips to the post-season. Arkansas is joined by SEC Eastern Division co-champs Tennessee and Florida along with East member Georgia in the field of 64. It is the first time since Arkansas added volleyball in 1994 that four league teams have been in the tournament. Georgia faces Georgia Tech Friday at Tech, Florida travels to Florida A&M facing the Rattlerettes Friday and Tennessee hosts Eastern Kentucky in Knoxville, Tenn., also on Friday.
What About the Other Conferences? The Big Ten and Big 12 led all conferences with seven teams selected. Two conferences landed six teams including the Big West and Pacific-10. Four teams Pacific, Penn State, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara have earned bids to all 24 championships. Eight teams are making their initial appearances in the tournament: Albany (New York), Iona, Jacksonville, Long Island, Rice, Towson, Wichita State and Yale. In the 24-year history of the championship, nine schools have been crowned champion, all of which are in this year’s bracket, including the defending champion Southern California. Additional past winners making the field are Stanford (1992, 94, 96, 97, 2001), Hawaii (1982, 83, 87), Long Beach State (1989, 93, 98), UCLA (1984, 90, 91), Pacific (1985, 86), Nebraska (1995 and 2000), Southern California (1981, 2003, 2004) and Penn State (1999).
LadyBacks HonoredIt was a big week for Arkansas in terms of hardware from the SEC. The Lady’Backs opened with lone senior Jennifer Haaser being named to the Southeastern Conference’s Good Works Team. An athlete from each SEC team is selected to the Good Works team based on her community service. Haaser’s off-the-court service included a couple of trips to Honduras where she aided in several building projects, as well as local events such as food drives and clothing drives around the holidays. Haaser continued to “cleanup” at SECs also earning second-team honors at the banquet Thursday evening. It was Haaser’s third selection to the all-conference team in her four-year playing career (2001 SEC Freshman of the Year, 2001 second team honors in 2001 and 2003). Haaser’s success out of the gym was also recognized by the SEC with the Fort Smith, Ark., native earning SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. She is the first volleyball player in school history to earn this honor. The Lady’Backs also posted a pair of players on the all-SEC Freshman Team. Jessica Dorrell and Ashley Miller each earned recognition by the league’s coaches. Finally, sophomore Kele Brewer stepped up with 19 kills in each of Arkansas’ tournament matches earning SEC all-Tournament Team honors Sunday. Brewer was nearly unstoppable hitting better than .300 Friday against LSU and matched her kill total with 19 against No. 12 Tennessee Saturday.
About Chris PooleThe Lady Razorbacks have known only one coach in the program’s history – Chris Poole. Since accepting the head coaching job at Arkansas Poole and the Lady’Backs have won a share of 10 of the first 11 SEC Western Division titles and reached the SEC Tournament finals eight times winning in 1997. Poole and the Lady’Backs have amassed a 267-116 all-time record and a 133-35 SEC record. Poole’s career record has grown to 501-185 in 18 seasons with a 198-39 all-time record in conference play.
About Number 500Head coach Chris Poole’s 500 win went mostly under the radar at the SEC Tournament. The career milestone came at the SEC Tournament with a thrilling five-game win over LSU in the first round on Friday. Poole has coached 18 seasons as a head coach including 11 at Arkansas.
Numbers paint the pictureArkansas’ statistical numbers are down this year. The most notable is the team’s hitting percentage which stands at .186 heading into the weekend. That mark, along with the overall number of kills (1801), total attempts (4908), kills per game (14.07) and assists (1609) are among the lowest yearly totals in the program’s history.
Arkansas by gamesThe Lady Razorbacks are 6-4 in three games, 4-8 in four games and 7-3 in five games this year. Arkansas is 17-15 in game one, 17-15 in game two, 13-19 in game three, 11-11 in game four and 7-3 in game five this year.
Can you dig it?Freshman libero Ashley Miller should find her name in the Arkansas record books after her first season of collegiate play. Miller leads the team in digs with 486 heading into the NCAA Tournament. The freshman record was 430 set by Krystal Osborne in Arkansas’ inaugural season in 1994 and Miller broke that mark in a 29-dig performance against SMS in Arkansas’ final match before the SEC Tournament. She is averaging 3.86 dpg this year and she is fast-approaching the single-season record of 503 set by Krystal Osborne in 147 games during the 1995 season.
Dig-DugIn addition to Miller’s single-season success the freshman has had 25 matches with double-digit dig totals. She had 16 consecutive matches with 10 or more digs and eight matches this year with 20 or more digs. Miller has collected 29 digs twice this year just shy of the 31 by an individual record held by Amanda Sweatt during the 1994 season.
The Great Wall of ArkansasThe Lady Razorbacks are known for blocking and have consistently ranked among the SEC and NCAA leaders for blocks throughout the program’s history. This year Arkansas has had 22 of its 32 matches in which the team has recorded double-digit block totals. The Lady’Backs have had streaks of six then seven consecutive double-digit block matches with the most recent streak broken in Columbia when Arkansas recorded just nine blocks at South Carolina. Arkansas has posted 12 double-digit block matches in 16 SEC matches this year.
More about the Block Arkansas ranks 14th this week in the NCAA blocking statistics entering the week averaging 3.13 bpg. Lone Lady’Back senior Jennifer Haaser ranks 30th in blocks per game with a 1.47 bpg average through Nov. 21.
Good defenseDespite Arkansas’ lower-than-usual hitting percentage this year the Lady’Backs have done a good job defensively keeping opponent’s hitting percentages low as well. Arkansas’ opponents are hitting just .183 against the Lady’Backs and Arkansas has held opponents below the .200 mark in 18 matches. Recently Arkansas had an eight-match streak in which they have contained opponents to a less-than-.200 mark (prior to LSU’s .215 mark Nov. 12). Arkansas was 6-2 in those eight matches.
Hard to come byArkansas has only recorded more kills than its opponent 11 times this year. Arkansas is 10-1 when they have more kills with the lone loss coming at No. 15 Tennessee Nov. 5, in Knoxville. Arkansas has out-hit its opponent 14 times this year and had a streak of seven matches snapped at South Carolina. The Lady’Backs are 14-1 when out-hitting its opponent with the lone loss coming at No. 15 Tennessee.
Jennifer Haasers Career Records WatchLone senior Jennifer Haaser continues to climb in the career records lists. She currently ranks tied for sixth for kills with 1,288. Here’s a quick look at some of her other numbers heading into the weekend: 13th in kills per game (2.65), fifth in attack attempts (3149); 16th in hitting percentage (.236); tied for seventh in service aces (105); second in service attempts (1587); ninth in digs (773); second in block solos (100); third in block assists (552), third in total blocks (652); fourth in blocks per game (1.34) and fourth in points (1769).
The Rest of the TeamSome of Haaser’s teammates are also climbing the career charts. Here’s a few notables: Dentiza Koleva is 14th in kills (707), 12th in kpg (2.81), 13th in total attempts (2096); Kele Brewer is 15th in kills (678), ninth in kpg (3.014), 14th in total attempts (1945); Karla Crose is 18th in kills (396); Iva Docekalova is fifth in assists (1046); Amanda Eskridge is seventh in assists (577); Docekalova is fourth in aces (112), tied for fifth in sapg (0.31), first in service attempts (1805), 12th in digs (681); Crose is 18th in block solos (13), 10th in block assists (2468), and 12th in total blocks (259).