FAYETTEVILLE — Fresh from its first Southeastern Conference win of the season, the University of Arkansas volleyball team looks to continue hosting Georgia in the first of two league matches in Barnhill Arena this weekend.
Arkansas (7-9, 1-5 SEC) opens weekend play with Georgia (13-4, 4-3 SEC) Friday at 7:00 p.m., and Auburn (9-9, 1-6 SEC) Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
"We’re very excited to be back home again," said Arkansas head coach Chris Poole. "We had a good match at Tennessee last weekend – it wasn’t perfect but we hung in there on the road and we really want to carry the momentum from that win into this weekend."
Poole and the Lady Razorbacks knew they were in somewhat of a rebuilding year when the season started but the slow conference start took everyone by surprise. The Lady’Backs were close in nearly every game they played but couldn’t get the win.
That changed at Tennessee when Arkansas won a hard-fought first game, 32-30, against the Lady Vols. The win sparked some confidence and Arkansas seemed to show more fight when the score got tight. It’s that fight Poole hopes to see again this weekend.
"That win was more of a relief than anything," he said. "It just shows you how much pressure the team was feeling. They were pressing for everything but once things went our way, they were like a new group of players."
Several players had good performances for Arkansas last weekend including senior Jessica Dorrell and junior Christina Lawrence but the play of freshman Sarah Freudenrich really stood out.
Freudenrich opened the weekend with seven kills at Kentucky and six blocks against the Wildcats. The Broken Arrow, Okla., native added three kills and a season/career-best 13 blocks in the win at Tennessee.
"Sarah has been a great surprise," said Poole. "She is in a position no one thought she’d be in. We planned to redshirt her but she’s had to step in because of some injuries. She’s inexperienced but gets better with every practice and match. It’s trial by fire and she’s really stepped up."
The Lady’Backs have their hands full with an improved Georgia team to start the weekend. The Bulldogs have more wins and more SEC wins at this point of the season than all of last year (6-25, 2-18 SEC in 2006). It’s been a balanced Georgia attack with several players leading the offense in each match.
"Georgia has a new coach, a new program and a new direction," said Poole. "They are playing with a lot of confidence and this match will challenge us. We’re going to have to play well to win."
Arkansas follows up this weekend hosting sixth-ranked Florida Friday, Oct. 12. Arkansas hosts South Carolina, Sunday, Oct. 14, as the SEC home stand continues.