Lady'Back volleyball opens SEC play with rare double-header
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas volleyball team begins their defense of the Southeastern Conference Western Division title this weekend opening league play with Tennessee and South Carolina in Barnhill Arena. The 7-4 Lady Razorbacks open the weekend with Tennessee (6-4) in a 7:00 p.m. match Friday. The Lady Vols were ranked as high as No. 16 last week in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 25 poll but a pair of 3-0 losses to unranked teams vaulted the Lady Vols from the poll altogether. Fans are also reminded that Barnhill will serve as the home site for the LSU Tiger volleyball team this weekend. LSU hosts South Carolina Friday at 4:30 p.m., and takes on Tennessee Sunday at 10:30 a.m. One ticket is good for both matches in a day. "The fact that Tennessee is not ranked this week doesn’t really mean much," said Arkansas head coach Chris Poole. "They are a very good team and will be ready to play and show the nation why they should still be in the poll. This is another big match for us and we’ll have to play well and limit our mistakes to be successful." The Lady’Backs host South Carolina Sunday (7-3) in a 1:30 p.m., match as the home stand continues. Carolina is showing some renewed life under new head coach Nancy Somera who has the Lady Gamecocks sitting in third place in the Eastern Division this week. Arkansas has also played well to open the year. Three of the Lady’Backs’ four losses have come at the hands of nationally-ranked opponents and each of the matches could have gone the other way. "We’ve been making little gains each weekend," acknowledged Poole, "but we are struggling to find ways to close matches. We do well until the 26, 28 point mark but then let it slip a bit at the end. We can’t do that against the SEC teams. The entire league is continuing to improve and the conference is deeper and stronger than it’s ever been. There is no ‘warm-up’ match in the SEC." To pick out a single leader for Arkansas would be difficult this season. The offense is as balanced as it has ever been and that’s evidenced by six different players earning all-tournament team honors at some point this year. Senior Karla Crose and junior Amy Allison have been offensively successful but contribute most with big blocking on defense. Juniors Kele Brewer and Denitza Koleva along with sophomore Jessica Dorrell are sharing the swings and have each lead Arkansas in difference matches this year. Sophomore Ashley Miller, the team’s libero, has been solid setting a school record with 32 digs at the Results Advertising Invitational in Springfield, Mo., earlier this year and redshirt freshman Christina Lawrence has shown signs of big things to come. The Lady’Backs 6-2 offense features a pair of setters in senior Iva Docekalova and sophomore transfer Nicole Martin. Freshman Caira Daugherty also contributed at the setter position after injury sidelined Docekalova for a match. Arkansas natives Kelli Cole (Russellville) and Kristin Seaton (Fort Smith) both earned their first starts last weekend in San Diego, Calif., and have played well all season. Fans who are not able to attend the weekend’s matches won’t have to miss a minute of the action as the Lady Razorbacks will air both events on the internet at LADYBACKS.COM. The Friday match against Tennessee is slated for a 7:00 p.m., start and airs live while Sunday’s 1:30 p.m., match with South Carolina is delayed with the broadcast beginning at 2:00 p.m. The webcast is free to Lady Razorback fans. Interested parties should log on to LADYBACKS.COM, and click on the "All Access" link on the right of the page to register. For more information about Arkansas volleyball or tickets please call the Lady Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LACK or log on to LADYBACKS.COM.