FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas volleyball team faces its first road test this weekend traveling to Virginia for the Jefferson Cup Invitational starting on Friday, Aug. 30.
Arkansas opened the season with a 3-1 mark with four consecutive home matches. Arkansas head coach Chris Poole and his staff now has a chance to evaluate the Lady’Backs in back-to-back road weekends beginning Friday.
"This weekend will be a good test for the team on the road," said Poole. "We open the tournament with Virginia who is a very, very good team and they’ve started well. We also face Temple. They have a large international flavor to their roster and have a lot of playing experience."
Arkansas, too, gains experience each time they take the court. The Lady’Backs dropped their opener to a solid Georgia Tech squad then went on a three-match win streak with Pittsburgh, Pepperdine and Oral Roberts, all of whom are expected to finish on top of their respective conference standings.
Seniors Kelli Cole, Jessica Dorrell and Ashley Miller along with junior Christina Lawrence have all played well in the early part of the season. Dorrell earned Clarion Inn Invitational MVP and Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors and Lawrence was selected to the all-tournament team for their play last weekend.
"We really expect a lot from the upperclassmen," said Poole. "We have a lot of younger players on the court throughout much of the match and the leadership both in play and vocally by the returners is really key to our success."
Arkansas’ youth is a bit more evident on the left side and in the middle but several players have stepped up to fill the roles thus far.
Sophomore Kristin Seaton returned on the left after an accident forced a redshirt season last year. She is joined by freshman Heather Royal who is still adjusting to the speed of the college game. Both players have been solid in the first four matches.
Arkansas is also a bit young in the middle. Sophomore Catherine Fowler was sideline for the first match with an injury but returned to the lineup for the second contest. She is joined by freshman Sarah Freudenrich and junior transfer Yun Tang both of whom have seen court time.
"We’re doing some good things at both positions," noted Poole. "But we know it’s going to take some time for those players to get comfortable. We have a lot of talent on the team and we’re working a lot on our chemistry and court awareness. Those things will get better each day we are together."
Arkansas opens the tournament against host Virginia Friday night. The Lady’Backs face Temple in the morning match and conclude play against Norfolk State Saturday night.
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