Pulliza Razorbacks open at TCU

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Arkansas volleyball season officially gets underway this weekend when the Razorbacks travel to the Texas Christian Invitational Friday and Saturday. Arkansas opens with host TCU in a 7 p.m. match Friday followed by an 11 a.m. match with Loyola Marymount and a 5 p.m. contest with Grambling State on Saturday. “It’s been a tough preseason — we really haven’t taken a full day off which is a little unusual,” said Pulliza. “With seven newcomers, we need to take advantage of every day of practice. We’ve done a lot in terms of organization and we’re going to see where we are in a couple days.” The Razorbacks return just five players from a year ago paced by seniors Lindsay Scanlan and Kristin Seaton. Both players have seen significant playing time and will be relied upon for leadership on and off the court. “We’re looking to our seniors for leadership,” confirmed Pulliza. “Lindsay is like a quarterback on the floor. She has to show us the way and make good decisions on the floor. Kristin will play a big part for us and we’re looking for her to lead by example.” A solid sophomore class will also be key to Arkansas’ success in the early season. Outside hitter Kelli Stipanovich and liberos Phoebe Bautista and Mackenzie Rhea all return for their second season on the court for Arkansas. Stipanovich and Seaton are the leading returning offensive players for Arkansas, while Bautista and Rhea split time at the libero position last year. The Razorbacks need mature play from the seven newcomers on this year’s roster — four of whom could be in the starting rotation Friday. “Everyone has got to make a big impact right away,” said Pulliza. “We could start four freshmen Friday. The way we are structuring our lineup right now, everyone will play so they all have to be ready to go.” Pulliza hinted that the Razorbacks’ defense would be a key for the team’s success this year. Both passing and blocking have been focal points in the preseason and Pulliza has noticed the improvement. “We are certainly a better defensive team that we were two weeks ago,” he said. “We are technically sound digging balls and it’s a matter of getting our timing down. A lot of the defense stems from the block and we’ve spent a lot of time working on that. All three middles are freshman and we’ve had some good battles there.” The Razorbacks have a busy pre-conference schedule. They follow up Saturday’s matches with the home opener Tuesday against Texas-Arlington in Barnhill Arena. Next, Arkansas travels East for the Virginia Tech Invitational taking on Norfolk State, East Carolina and Virginia Tech Sept. 4-5. The Razorbacks have their second mid-week match traveling to Tulsa Sept. 8, followed by a home tournament Sept. 11-12, with Kansas, North Texas and Jacksonville State coming to Barnhill. For more information, the complete schedule and tickets log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.