Eight NCAA Tournament teams highlight 2007 volleyball schedule

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas faces eight NCAA Tournament teams, several perennial powerhouses and a host of new opponents in the 2007 volleyball schedule head coach Chris Poole announced today. The Lady Razorbacks have 14 home dates with 15 home matches at Barnhill Arena this year. "Our schedule is always very strong, but we have really focused on our non-conference schedule the last three years," said Poole. "We know that it’s looked at closely when the NCAA selections are made and no doubt that has paid off for us." The home schedule features a tournament to open the year followed by a non-conference match-up with NCAA first-round participant Oral Roberts. The Arkansas Clarion Inn Invitational welcomes Georgia Tech, Pepperdine and Pittsburgh to Barnhill on Aug. 24-25. Pepperdine was also an NCAA team from a year ago while Tech has been one of the toughest teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference in recent years. "I really like our opening weekend home tournament," said Poole. "Pepperdine is always one of the top teams in the nation, and Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh have been very strong. All three teams traditionally are playing for their respective conference championships. It will be a great early test for us." Arkansas next hits the road for back-to-back road tournaments at Virginia for the Jefferson Cup. It is the Lady’Backs first trip to Charlottesville and they face first-time opponents Temple and Norfolk State as well as host Virginia, Aug. 31-Sept. 1. The Lady Razorbacks return to the midwest traveling to the Varney’s Kansas State Tournament, Sept. 7-8, in Manhattan, Kan. The K-State Tournament has Arkansas facing the host Big 12 power Wildcats along with Fresno State and Northern Iowa. "Our two road non-conference tournaments will have a mixture of Top 25 level teams and teams that we have not played in the past," Poole continued. "It’s always fun to play new teams and teams outside our region to give us an opportunity to compete against different styles of play." The 2007 schedule has Arkansas jumping right into the Southeastern Conference schedule where the Lady’Backs are one of seven league teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year. This season, Arkansas finds itself without a travel partner as the 11-team schedule rotates meaning the Lady’Backs do not have a mid-week contest. "The SEC was one of only two conferences that sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last fall," said Poole. "I expect it to be even tougher this season. I knew that at some point the SEC would explode in volleyball. It makes for great competition and a team has to stay consistent throughout the season. There are simply no easy matches to be played." The weekends, however, will be busy opening Sept. 14 and 16 with Mississippi and LSU in Barnhill. The Bulldogs made the program’s first NCAA appearance last year. LSU won the SEC Western Division title and was also a post season participant. Arkansas next faces four road matches in the first of two long road stands. The Lady’Backs travel to Mississippi State and Alabama followed by trips to Kentucky and Tennessee in back-to-back weekends in September. The Crimson Tide and Lady Vols were both first-round teams last year while Kentucky reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The longest home stand of the season begins with Georgia Oct. 5, followed by Auburn Oct. 7, Florida Oct. 12, and South Carolina Oct. 14. National powerhouse Florida reached the NCAA Regional Finals and are just one year removed from a Final Four appearance. The SEC schedule is at the half-way point as Arkansas makes a trip to LSU and Mississippi is followed by home matches with Alabama and Mississippi State as October closes. The second four-match road swing begins at South Carolina Nov. 2, followed by a trip to Florida Nov. 4, and matches at Auburn Nov. 9, and at Georgia Nov. 11. Arkansas concludes the SEC regular season hosting Alabama and Kentucky in the final weekend of the league season. The Lady Razorbacks will break for the Thanksgiving holiday but return to campus early hosting a final match with Connecticut Nov. 24, before the NCAA selections that weekend. Tickets for the 2007 season are on sale now at the Razorback Ticket Office. Please call 877-LADYBACK or 57-LBACK for more information.