Razorback volleyball begins Pulliza era

FT. COLLINS, Colo. – The University of Arkansas begins a new era of Razorback volleyball this weekend under the direction of first-year head coach Robert Pulliza in Ft. Collins, Colo.

Arkansas faces No. 17 Colorado State, Denver and Eastern Washington at the Hilton Classic hosted by CSU and heads into battle with just the second head coach in program history.

“We are really excited to get out and play someone,” said Pulliza. “We’ve done a good job of staying on task. This is our first go-around together. It’s exciting and a bit of an unknown. We are really looking forward to it.”

Arkansas opens the season with No. 17 Colorado State on the Rams’ home floor. CSU returns 10 players and five starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team.

“Right now, we are focusing on us and our team,” said Pulliza. “The coaching staff has implemented a lot of new things and we’re excited to see how that transitions into a match. As the season progresses, we will expand our scouting reports and focus on our opponents’ tendencies but we just want to see how we measure up in this first match.”

Arkansas has both a young and old team as the 2008 season begins. A pair of seniors, Christina Lawrence and Yun Tang, lead the team but only Lawrence has significant playing experience. Senior Caira Dortch returns as well after sitting out last year.

Juniors Lindsay Scanlan, Kristin Seaton and Destiny Clark are back as well. Scanlan was one of two starting setters from a year ago but Seaton was slowed recovering from injury and Clark missed the entire year with injury.

Sophomore Heather Royal saw action in all of Arkansas’ matches a year ago with classmate Hillary McCormick seeing only spot time.

Phoebe Bautista, Kelli Stipanovich, Lauren Fielding and Mackenzie Rhea will all challenge for the their first playing time for the Cardinal and White.

“We’re young in some positions, there’s no doubt about it,” said Pulliza. “We’re going to have to rely on our more experienced players to lead others but no one player has to shoulder the entire burden. This team has done a good job of empowering themselves and preparing for the season.

“It’s been a great group effort,” Pulliza continued. “Every player has stepped up at different times and that’s what we want to see all year. We’re looking for a balanced attack that doesn’t center around any one player. Everyone is going to have to contribute for us to be successful.”

Arkansas opens the year with the 17th-ranked Rams at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The Razorbacks face Denver at 11 a.m. Saturday with the final match against Eastern Washington scheduled for 6 p.m. that evening.

Live match stats as well as more information about Arkansas volleyball can be found at ArkansasRazorbacks.com.