Lady Razorbacks open season with Kansas Arkansas officially opens the 2004 season Wednesday hosting the Kansas Jayhawks in non-conference action in Barnhill Arena. This year’s edition of the Lady’Backs includes three returning all-Southeastern Conference players and six newcomers.
Arkansas picked to defend Western titleThe 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.
Lady Razorbacks receive votes in national pollThe University of Arkansas begins the 2004 season with 18 points in the USA TODAY/AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll. It is the third consecutive year Arkansas has been mentioned in the preseason poll. The Lady Razorbacks finished the 2003 season with 25 points in the poll.
Tough schedule awaits Lady’BacksArkansas opens the 2004 season with one of the toughest schedules in recent memory. Nine of the first 10 opponents are mentioned in the USA TODAY/AVCA Preseason top 25 poll headlined by the first of two meetings with fourth-ranked Florida Sept. 24. Arkansas opens the season with Kansas who is receiving 85 points. The Lady’Backs follow up with Pacific (seven points) and No. 22 Santa Clara Sept. 3-4. Arkansas faces more tough competition at the Green Mills Restaurant Classic in Wichita, Kan. Sept. 10-11, meeting No. 7 Washington, Michigan State (45 points) and the host Shockers (13 points). The Lady’Backs return to Barnhill Arena hosting the C&C Services Invitational Sept. 17-18 where they face No. 19 Illinois, Ball State (three points) and unranked Houston in tournament action.
About KansasFor the first time in program history, three University of Kansas student-athletes were named to the Big 12 Conference Preseason Volleyball Team, as voted on by the league’s head coaches and released by the conference Monday. Junior middle blocker Josi Lima (Sao Paulo, Brazil) earned First-Team honors, junior transfer Paula Caten (Canarana, Brazil) was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and freshman setter/outside hitter Emily Brown (Baldwin, Kan.) was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Kansas reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2003.
Arkansas and Kansas: The SeriesThe Lady Razorbacks hold a 1-0 advantage in the series over the Jayhawks. The teams met last year at Kansas with the Lady’Backs squeaking out a thrilling five-game win, 25-30, 30-17, 30-22, 20-30, 15-13. Jennifer Haaser had 13 blocks in that Arkansas victory.
Home, Home on the Range The Lady Razorbacks are a perfect 10-0 in their home openers. Arkansas is 8-2 in season openers with the two opening match losses coming first in 2000 against #2 Penn State at Texas and again in 2001 against No. 14 Colorado State in Fort Collins.
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.
Arkansans dominate rosterThe 2004 season begins with four native Arkansans on the roster – the most ever in a single season. Returning for her final season is Fort Smith native and all-SEC selection Jennifer Haaser. Haaser headlines the talented group that includes junior libero Chelsey Warmack of Harrison and freshmen Kelli Cole (L/DS) of Russellville and Ashley Wiechman (OH) of Jonesboro. In addition, head coach Chris Poole is also from Arkansas. Poole was born in Heber Springs and attended school in Jonesboro.
Injury UpdateArkansas is going through the typical first month bumps and bruises at this point of the season. The most notable is sophomore Kele Brewer. Brewer has a stress fracture in her left foot and will not play against Kansas. She is listed as day-to-day but is expected to return in Wichita. Freshman Amanda Eskridge is battling shoulder soreness and is also day-to-day.
Poole begins 11th seasonArkansas head coach Chris Poole begins his 11th season as the only skipper the program has ever known. The Heber Springs, Ark., native has amassed a 250-101 record at Arkansas including a 123-29 record in Southeastern Conference play.
Lady’Backs dominate SEC Western DivisionTo say Arkansas is successful against Western Division teams is a bit of an understatement. Since adding volleyball in 1994 the Lady Razorbacks have won nine of 10 SEC Western Division titles (surrendering the crown to Alabama in 2000). Arkansas has a 93-6 record against the West during the regular season and is a perfect 7-0 against divisional opponents at the SEC Tournament. The Lady Razorbacks were perfect against the West the previous two seasons with a 10-0 record in 2002 and a 9-9 mark last year. The Lady Razorbacks lead in nearly every statistical category as well. Here’s a quick look:
Speaking of the SECThe Lady Razorbacks finished the year ranked in every statistical category in the Southeastern Conference last year. Arkansas was first in the league in blocking averaging 3.21 blocks per game in 2003. The Lady Razorbacks were second in hitting with a .275 mark, in opponent hitting percentage at .169, in service aces with a 2.13 sapg mark and in win/loss percentage with a .938. Arkansas was fourth in assists averaging 14.05 apg, third in kills with a 15.84 mark and sixth in digs with a 14.22 average.
B is for blockArkansas has long been known for its blocking and last year was no exception. The Lady Razorbacks lead the Southeastern Conference averaging 3.21 blocks per game in SEC-only matches. The team ranked second in all matches with a 2.95 bpg average. That number (2.95) ranked the Lady Razorbacks 20th in the nation last year in blocking. Additionally, Sara Kincaid and Jennifer Haaser ranked among the nation’s individual leaders with Kincaid also ranking 20th with 1.45 bpg last year. Haaser ranked 37th with a 1.33 average.
Up NextThe Lady Razorbacks pack their bags for back-to-back weekends traveling first to Santa Clara, Calif., facing University of the Pacific, who is getting votes, and No. 22 Santa Clara, both in Santa Clara. Arkansas continues its road stand Sept. 10-11 at the Green Mills Restaurant Classic in Wichita, Kan., where they face No. 7 Washington along with Michigan State and Wichita State, both of whom are getting votes.