Lady'Backs open with Arkansas Invitational

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas volleyball team opens the 2005 season hosting the Arkansas Invitational Friday and Saturday in Barnhill Arena. The four-team round robin tournament pits Arkansas against Belmont, Memphis and North Texas and gives the Lady’Backs a measuring stick for a month of grueling preseason practices. "We’re very excited to get on the court and play some different teams," said head coach Chris Poole. "This should be an exciting tournament. It’s a chance to open at home which we haven’t done recently. Practice has been very competitive and we’re excited to get out there and show what we can do." Arkansas began practice Aug. 9 with two-a-days until classes began last Monday. The Lady’Backs hosted the alumni in a scrimmage last Sunday and Poole is both excited and challenged by what he saw. "We tried five different lineups in each of the five games," said Poole of the scrimmage. "We have a lot of options. The match gave us a chance to see a lot of players in different positions. We, as a coaching staff, have narrowed it down to three (lineups) but we still don’t know who’ll start for us Friday." Seniors middle blocker Karla Crose and setter Iva Docekalova return to lead an experienced and athletic squad this year. Crose is the leading returning blocker while Docekalova saw time as both a setter and defensive specialist in 2004 for the Lady’Backs. They team with juniors Amy Allison, Kele Brewer and Denitza Koleva forming a solid upperclassmen corps. Sophomores Jessica Dorrell and Ashley Miller were both named to the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team last year and defensive specialist Kelli Cole got a lot of experience late in the season for Arkansas. Arkansas welcomes five newcomers for 2005 headlined by redshirt freshman Christina Lawrence and transfer Nicole Martin. Both have a season of collegiate volleyball under their belts and are more experienced than most "first-year" players. Freshman Arkansas all-star Kristin Seaton joins Kansas native Destiny Clark and Missouri native Caira Daugherty rounding out the roster. Arkansas Invitational tournament action begins at noon Friday when Belmont takes on North Texas. Belmont faces Memphis at 5:00 p.m., followed by Arkansas hosting the Mean Green in the nightcap at 7:00 p.m. Saturday’s action begins with Arkansas and Belmont at noon. Memphis and North Texas follow at 2:00 p.m., and the tournament concludes with Arkansas meeting Memphis at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for this and all Arkansas events are available by calling the Lady Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LBACK or by logging on to LADYBACKS.COM.