FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team received a bid to the 2004 NCAA Championship it was announced in a selection show on ESPN News Sunday. Arkansas finished the 2004 regular season with a 17-15 overall record and a 10-6 mark in Southeastern Conference play. A tough early-season schedule and some late season losses had Arkansas on the bubble but the committee gave the nod to the Lady’Backs and three other league teams. “It’s great. It’s just awesome," said Arkansas head coach Chris Poole. "Some people around the country were ready to give up on us after a rough start in the pre-conference schedule but we never gave up and we were rewarded in the end." Arkansas opens tournament play with No. 16 seed Missouri who is 19-8 on the year. The match takes place Friday, Dec. 3, at 6:00 p.m. Also in Arkansas’ bracket is Illinois (19-10) and Louisville (28-2) who face each other in a 4:00 p.m., match Friday. The winners meet Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Arkansas opened the year with a 2-8 overall record with nine of their first opponents ranked or getting votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll. The Lady’Backs settled down when SEC action began winning five in a row with victories over Georgia, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama. A loss at Georgia and at national powerhouse No. 10 Florida slowed Arkansas’ progress but the Lady’Backs got back on track winning six consecutive SEC matches both at home and on the road. “We made some good runs,” said Poole. “We had stretches where we played really well but we knew it would be a challenging schedule with a young team. Our youth showed sometimes but I’m excited about what that means for us next year.” The Lady Razorbacks notched 10 wins in the SEC capturing a share of the Western Division title for the 10th time in 11 seasons. In addition, Arkansas reached the second round of the SEC Tournament and posted several near-misses over teams that were ranked higher this year. Lone senior Jennifer Haaser is the only player not returning for Arkansas next year. One of the most recognized faces in Arkansas volleyball history, the Fort Smith native has 1,288 career kills, a .236 hitting percentage, 773 digs, 105 service aces, 100 block solos, 552 block assists and 652 total blocks in four seasons. “Jennifer will be missed,” said Poole, “for a lot of reasons. She brought a lot to the team both on and off the floor over her four seasons. She was a good captain and a good leader but I’m very excited about the returners and the newcomers we’ve added.” This is Arkansas’ seventh trip to the tournament since adding volleyball in 1994. In addition, it marks back-to-back trips for the Lady’Backs who reached the second round last year in Manhattan, Kan. In addition to Arkansas No. 10 Tennessee (30-2), No. 12 Florida (27-4) and Georgia (18-11) were invited from the SEC. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. The teams tabbed as the top four seeds were Nebraska, Penn State, Hawaii and Minnesota. Team pairings were determined by geographical proximity, with the exception that teams from the same conference were not paired during the first and second rounds. 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. For more information about Arkansas volleyball log on to www.ladybacks.com.