The University of Arkansas is clinging to the Southeastern Conference Western Division lead after dropping a pair of league matches at Georgia (3-2) and No. 10 Florida (3-1) last weekend. Arkansas enters the short week with a 7-10 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the SEC. The Lady’Backs host Kentucky Friday followed by a non-conference tilt with Valparaiso in the first meeting between the two programs.
A Good Loss
There were a couple of positives that came from the four-game loss at No. 10 Florida Sunday. Arkansas notched a first-game win against the Gators winning a game for the first time since 1994 in the O’Connell Center. The Lady’Backs lost in the first round of the SEC Tournament, 3-2, against Kentucky in 1994 and have never won a game on the Gator’s court since. The sophomore duo of Denitza Koleva and Kele Brewer return with a vengeance against the Gators as well. Both have had a quite season but they emerged as the team’s leaders at Florida. Each tallied 13 kills for Arkansas.
The Wildcats notched their first home SEC win of the season with a 3-1 victory over Mississippi State Friday. Kentucky followed with a 3-1 loss to Mississippi Sunday. Kentucky ranks fourth in the SEC in hitting percentage with a .227 mark and second in the league in assists with a 14.75 average. The Wildcats are last in blocks (1.72), third in kills (15.78) and last in aces (0.84)
Arkansas versus the Wildcats
The Lady Razorbacks are 10-4 all-time against the Wildcats. Kentucky had Arkansas’ number in 1994 when the Lady’Backs added volleyball winning the first four meetings but Arkansas has run off 10 wins in a row against the Wildcats.
The Lady Razorbacks take a break from Southeastern Conference play but don’t get a break in the schedule hosting Valparaiso Sunday. The Crusaders are 18-3 overall and lead the Mid-Continent Conference with a perfect 7-0 record. Valparasio is hitting .238 as a team and averaging 2.93 blocks per game. The Crusaders have won 12 in a row heading to Fayetteville. Arkansas and Valpo have a few common opponents this year beginning with Ball State. Valpo won that match 3-0 while Arkansas lost 3-0 earlier this year. One of the Crusaders’ losses this year came at the hands of SEC foe Kentucky, 3-1, a team the Lady’Backs face Friday. The Crusaders hosted Oral Roberts in a conference match winning 3-1 Sept. 24, and the Lady’Backs host ORU Nov. 2.
Arkansas versus the Crusaders
This is the first meeting between Arkansas and Valparaiso since the Lady’Backs added volleyball in 1994.
The Magic Number
Arkansas has 13 regular season matches remaining including eight conference matches and five non-conference contests. Arkansas’ remaining league matches including Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina from the East as well as Alabama, Auburn, LSU (twice) and Mississippi State from the West. The non-conference contests are against Valparaiso, Oral Roberts and Southwest Missouri State before the SEC Tournament and Texas Christian and Southern Methodist after the tournament.
About Those 13 Matches
Arkansas’ remaining 13 matches are not walks in the park. The Lady’Backs face a 17th-ranked Tennessee team on its home court, and have matches with several much-improved teams including LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State. Topping the remaining schedule is, of course, 17th-ranked Tennessee who is eighth in Rich Kern’s version of the RPI (www.richkern.com). Arkansas hosts Alabama (23rd RKPI), travels to South Carolina (41), has a home and away with LSU (45), and hosts both Valparaiso (52) and Kentucky (59) all of whom are in the top 60. Southwest Missouri State (70), Texas Christian (80), Mississippi State (100), Mississippi (121), Auburn (145) and Oral Roberts (158) also remain on the schedule.
More About the RPI
Other teams that the Lady’Backs have already played are doing well in the RKPI as well. Here’s a look: Florida (6), Washington (10), Santa Clara (14), Illinois (24), Pacific (35), Michigan State (38), Georgia (40), Ball State (43), Wichita State (48) and Kansas (60).
Home Court Advantage
The Lady Razorbacks like to play at home. Barnhill Arena has been good to Arkansas with the team owning a 124-26 record in the first 10 seasons of play. Arkansas is 4-4 this year brining the team’s total to 128-30 heading into the Kentucky match. The Lady’Backs have seven of their remaining 13 matches at home (four conference and three non-conference).
About Chris Poole
The Lady Razorbacks have known only one coach in the program’s history Chris Poole. Since accepting the head coaching job at Arkansas Poole and the Lady’Backs have won nine of the first 10 SEC Western Division titles and reached the SEC Tournament finals eight times winning in 1997. Poole and the Lady’Backs have amassed a 257-111 all-time record and a 128-32 SEC record (prior to the Kentucky match). Poole’s career record has grown to 491-180 in 18 seasons with a 193-38 all-time record in conference play.
Jennifer Haaser’s Career Records Watch
Lone senior Jennifer Haaser continues to climb in the career records lists. She currently ranks ninth for kills with 1,102. Here’s a quick look at some of her other numbers heading into the Kentucky match: 13th in kills per game (2.59), ninth in attack attempts (2701); 16th in hitting percentage (.237); eighth in service aces (95); second in service attempts (1342); 11th in digs (656); third in block solos (88); fourth in block assists (463), fourth in total blocks (551); fourth in blocks per game (1.29) and seventh in points (1516.5).
The Rest of the Team
Some of Haaser’s teammates are also climbing the career charts. Here’s a few notables: Dentiza Koleva is 15th in kills (546); Kele Brewer is 17th in kills (465); Karla Crose is 20th in kills (308); Iva Docekalova is sixth in assists (716); Amanda Eskridge is ninth in assists (250); Docekalova is seventh in aces (99), third in sapg (0.32), first in service attempts (1506), 15th in digs (571); Crose is 19th in block solos (10), 18th in block assists (159), and 18th in total blocks (169).
About the SEC Tournament
The University of Florida hosts the 2004 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., Nov. 19-21. The single-elimination tournament will feature the top eight teams in the conference as they vie for the SEC crown. Seeding for the tournament will be as follows: The tournament will be seeded 1-8 regardless of division, based on conference winning percentage.
How the West was won
Arkansas finds itself on top of the SEC Western Division standings for the third consecutive week despite losing a pair of matches last week. The Lady’Backs at 5-3 in the SEC, have wins over four divisional teams (Mississippi, Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama) this year. Alabama is second in the West with a 4-4 record followed by Mississippi State with a 3-5 mark. LSU and Mississippi are next at 2-6 followed by Auburn who is 1-7.
Dorrell dominates the Heart of Dixie
Freshman Jessica Dorrell played well in Alabama last weekend helping Arkansas to wins over Auburn and Alabama. Dorrell paced Arkansas with 12 kills and hit .474 while recording a career-best seven blocks at Auburn. She stepped up again at Alabama with 13 kills, a .667 hitting percentage and two blocks leading the Lady’Backs to the four-game win. She hit .568 for the weekend in one of her best all-around series.
Big block continues for Lady’Backs
Arkansas started the season statistically slow and is still struggling with its hitting percentage. The block, however, has been a lifesaver for the Lady’Backs this year. Arkansas has tallied 106.5 blocks in conference for a 3.23 block per game average in SEC play. They have 194.5 total blocks in all matches with a 2.86 bpg average.
More about the block
Arkansas has recorded double-digit blocks in nine of the team’s 15 matches this year. The Lady’Backs made it five in a row in all five SEC wins with a season-best 20 blocks against Mississippi Oct. 1. The Lady’Backs nearly matched that mark with 19.0 at Auburn.
Individual block leaders
Junior Karla Crose has been in double-digit blocks twice this year. The first time came against Mississippi when Crose posted a career-best 12 (2 bs-10 ba) and again with 10 (0-10) at Auburn. Senior Jennifer Haaser has also had a double-digit block match with 12 (2-10) against No. 9 Illinois at the C&C Services Invitational in Barnhill Arena.
Freshman Jessica Dorrell recorded the highest individual hitting percentage this year with a .667 mark at Alabama. Dorrell tallied 13 kills, one hitting error and had 18 attempts in the win. Senior Jennifer Haaser is in the number two spot with a .522 mark against Ball State and Dorrell is again third with a .474 mark at Auburn.
Sophomore Denitza Koleva holds the season-best mark for kills in a match with 23 against Pacific earlier this year and is also this year’s leader for total attempts with 51 against Houston. Junior Iva Docekalova holds the season-best mark for assists in a match with 68 set against Pacific before Arkansas switched up the offense from a 5-1 to a 6-2. Freshman Ashley Miller holds top honors for digs with 26 against Houston, and Haaser leads the team with five service aces against Kansas in the first match of the year. Junior Karla Crose holds three of the top four marks this year in blocks. She, along with Haaser, have each recorded 12.0 blocks in a match this year.
Arkansas picked to defend Western title
The University of Arkansas volleyball team was selected to defend its Southeastern Conference Western Division title in a vote of the league’s coaches. Arkansas has dominated the Western Division winning nine of 10 possible titles. The Lady Razorbacks have been selected to win the West in 10 of 11 preseason polls earning nine first place votes and tallying 58 points. (See page two for the complete SEC preseason poll.)
All-Conference returners lead team
The Lady Razorbacks return three all-SEC selections from a year ago. Back is lone senior and two-time all-SEC selection Jennifer Haaser. Sophomore Denitza Koleva was a second-team selection was the SEC co-freshman of the year last season while teammate Kele Brewer earned selection to the first-ever all-SEC team.
Arkansas returns to the road for a midweek match at LSU Tuesday, Oct. 26, followed by three in a row at home. The Lady’Backs host Alabama, Auburn and Oral Roberts beginning Oct. 29.