FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team reported to campus Monday for the official start of the 2011 season. Under the direction of fourth-year head coach Robert Pulliza, the Razorbacks are scheduled to begin their practice sessions Tuesday morning at Barnhill Arena.
"This is certainly an exciting day," Pulliza said. "It’s a fun day to get back together to catch up a little bit on the summer and then talk about where we’re going (as a team) this season. We feel we have an exciting group and are looking forward to an exciting year."
Arkansas returns 10 letterwinners and five starters from last season, including 2010 All-SEC performers Jasmine Norton and Raymariely Santos. The Razorbacks also welcome back Amanda Anderson, Brooke Fournier, Hayley Koop, Clarissa Pavey, Kelli Stipanovich, Janeliss Torres-Lopez, Adriana Vazquez and Charmaine Whitmore.
The roster will feature five newcomers beginning with the additions of junior transfers Roslandy Acosta, Kasey Heckelman and Marci King. Acosta was the 2010 AVCA Two-Year National Player of the Year at Cowley College, while King was named to the NJCAA Division I All-American First Team. Heckelman joined the team in January in term for spring workouts. The Razorbacks’ two freshmen are Christa Alvarez and KC Dobbins.
"We have reached a maturity level that we’ve been missing the last few seasons," Pulliza said. "That maturity and our physicality can certainly take us places. We’re going to be deeper. With our third recruiting class under our belt here, it definitely gives us some depth we haven’t had in the past. That’s going to help in terms of competition in the gym and being able to rest people at certain points throughout the season.
"We have two very good senior leaders this year with Kelli Stipanovich and Adriana Vazquez. They have worked very hard this summer and are hungry to go out with a bang to end up their careers with a great experience."
After three weeks of preseason training, the Razorbacks open their season Aug. 26-27 with the Arkansas Invitational at Barnhill Arena. In addition to Arkansas, the tournament field is also set to feature Colorado State, Middle Tennessee and McNeese State. Both Colorado State and Middle Tennessee played in the NCAA Tournament last season. Including their season-opening event, the Razorbacks have 14 home dates.
"I’m really excited about the team chemistry and potential we have," Stipanovich said. "We’ve been working really hard over the past few years and now we’re all looking forward to a lot of excitement and a lot of wins."
Season tickets for 2011 are now on sale through the Razorback Ticket Center. Fans looking to renew their ticket packages may do so for $50 while first-time buyers can secure reserved seats for $29. Last season, Barnhill Arena hosted three of the top six crowds in program history. For more season-ticket information, visit the ticket office page at ArkansasRazorbacks.com or call at 800-982-4647.