FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team started its 2010 spring exhibition season this weekend with three wins at the Texas Tornados College Spring Tournament in Houston, Texas. The Razorbacks came away with victories over New Mexico State, SMU and Wichita State.
"I am excited to start our spring season with a 3-0 record," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "Our players did a great job preparing themselves for the tournament and it showed in the overall consistency during the day. It was fun watching Alex Fitzmorris in her college debut. I think she did a great job and her future is definitely bright in a Razorback uniform. We also saw significant technical and physical improvement in each of our athletes."
In the opener, Arkansas beat New Mexico State in two sets. Jasmine Norton, the 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year and an AVCA All-American, led the offensive charge with nine kills and a .316 hitting percentage. Kelli Stipanovich added six kills and led the Razorbacks, defensively, with 10 digs. The tournament marked the first collegiate competition for Fitzmorris, who joined the team in January. She had two kills and a block in the match. New Mexico State was 19-9 during the 2009 season.
Against SMU, the Razorbacks posted another two-set victory. Phoebe Bautista was solid behind the Arkansas block and led the team with 22 digs. Norton and Stipanovich paced the team with 16 and eight kills, respectively. SMU finished last season with a 19-12 mark.
Arkansas and Wichita State ‘Black’ went the distance with the Hogs picking up a three-set win. Stipanovich capped her day with a team-high seven kills to lead a well-balanced and efficient offensive attack. Janeliss Torres-Lopez had a .600 hitting percentage in the match. Kendall Cleveland hit .428, while Fitzmorris turned in a .375 hitting effort. Wichita State advanced to the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament and ended the year with a 26-7 record.
"I feel our offense, led by Cassie Clarke, came through in some clutch situations," Pulliza said. "I also think our new defensive system is going to be very good for our team as we have already seen good results from it this weekend. We are looking forward to a solid week of practice before competing again at the Rice Invitational."
The Razorbacks will stay in Houston for the week to train and return to competition next weekend at the Rice tournament where they are scheduled to take on Baylor, Miami, Rice and Texas A&M. All four of next weekend’s opponents played in the 2009 NCAA Tournament with Baylor and Texas A&M advancing to the third round.