Lady Razorbacks hit the roadArkansas takes to the road this week traveling to Santa Clara, Calif., for a pair of matches against the University of the Pacific and Santa Clara. Both matches will be played at Santa Clara. The contests were orginially part of the Bronco Invitational but the tournament was suspended.
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. (See page two for the complete SEC preseason poll.)
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. (See page three for the complete 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 PacificJayne McHugh begins her fourth season at the helm of the Pacific Tigers opening the 2004 year against Arkansas in Santa Clara. The Tigers likely starters include three seniors, three juniors and a sophomore from a team that went 18-14 last year. Depsite the tough record the Tigers played a solid schedule and find themselves receiving votes in this year’s preseason poll checking in with seven points.
Arkansas and Pacific: The SeriesThe Lady Razorbacks are 0-2 lifetime agains Pacific. The teams first met in 1997 in tournament action in Lincoln, Neb., when the Lady’Backs fell in five to the seventh-ranked Tigers. The teams battled again in 1998 on Pacific’s home court in Stockton, Calif., where the ninth-ranked home team again notched the win in a thrilling five-game match.
About Santa ClaraSanta Clara opened the 2004 season at home for the first time in five seasons hosting Sacramento State Wednesday before welcoming Pacific and Arkansas to their gym. The Broncos have the ninth best recruiting class in the nation (according to PrepVolleyball.com) and hope to improve upon last year’s 20-11 record. The Broncos are picked second in the West Coast Conference preseason poll this year.
Arkansas and Santa Clara: The SeriesThis is the first meeting for the Lady’Backs and the Broncos.
Home, Home on the RangeThe 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 teamThe 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:
Returning All-SEC playersArkansas returns three all-Southeastern Conference players from last season’s team. Lone senior Jennifer Haaser was a second-team pick and has earned two all-SEC honors including the SEC Freshman of the Year award in 2000. Sophomores Denitza Koleva and Kele Brewer both earned all-freshman team honors with Koleva capturing co-freshman of the year kudos as well.
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.