Florida, 17-1 against Arkansas all-time and 8-1 overall this season, lost half its team to graduation last year but added three national Top-10 recruits: 6-foot-3 middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth of Deltona, Fla.; 5-11 setter Angie McGinnis of Fraser, Mich., and 6-1 outside hitter Marcie Hampton of Gainesville, Fla.
"Florida is still loaded," said UA coach Chris Poole. "They're big and physical. They haven't lost an SEC regular-season match in 10 years, and I don't think they overlook anyone."
The Lady'Backs, 2-7, jelled a bit last weekend in a 30-22, 29-31, 30-20, 31-29 loss to No. 9 Illinois, a team that had just beaten No. 1 USC the week before.
"A bright spot was that our blocking improved," Poole said. "But we missed 45 serves in three matches last week, and that's just not us. We need to improve our on-court chemistry."
The return of sophomore outside hitter Kele Brewer from a leg injury helps that chemistry, as does senior Jennifer Haaser's recent hitting accuracy and freshman Ashley Miller's defense (school-record 26 digs against Houston).
Freshman Jessica Dorrell gives Arkansas a strong outside hitter, and gives Poole the luxury of playing three blockers on the front row all the time.
As always, Florida will keep a lot of rallies alive with its athleticism and desire.
CROSS COUNTRY TEAM HEADS TO MINNESOTA
Lance Harter's No. 16 Lady'Backs cross country team will travel to Minnesota for the first time to compete with six other ranked teams including No. 2 Providence on Saturday in the Griak Invitational on the University of Minnesota Golf Course.
"This is the toughest competition we'll see until the NCAA Meet," Harter said. "Call it a dress rehearsal for nationals."
Tiffany Redlarczyk ran a 17:44.85 for a young Arkansas delegation at Joplin, Mo., last week as the Lady'Backs nearly surprised winner Oklahoma.
"Our young ones really came through at Missouri Southern," Harter said.
Penny Splichal, whose back is fine now but who has had stomach pain, leads a full UA team in the 6,000-meter race against Providence, No. 8 Princeton, No. 13 Columbia, No. 22 Arizona State, No. 26 Colorado State and No. 30 West Virginia.
"It should be 60 degrees and sunny," Harter said.
Alison Zeinner Rush, Beth Fahey, Jessie Gordon, Laura Jakosky, Laura Kerr, Sarah Saffa, Maureen Scott, Kristina Smith, Shiloh Whiting and Redlarczyk will also run for Arkansas.
CAMPBELL STRIKES AGAIN
Former UA sprinter and Jamaican Olympian Veronica Campbell won the 100-meter dash in the Grand Prix finals at Monaco last week in 10.91.
"That makes her officially the fastest in the world this year," said UA sprints coach Lonnie Greene.
Campbell has won four Olympic medals, including two gold medals this year in Athens.
SOFTBALL TO SCRIMMAGE
Arkansas' softball team, after sweeping three scrimmage games last weekend, will play Northeastern (Okla.) A&M, Texarkana (Texas) College and Northeastern (Okla.) State in scrimmages on Sunday at Lady'Back yard, beginning at 11 a.m.
In a 6-2 win over Neosho (Mo.) County, UA senior Ashley Carter had two hits and two RBIs, junior Shana Easley added two hits and sophomore Sarah Topham pitched five no-hit innings.
Junior Mindy O'Malley's two-out RBI single in the seventh inning sent Arkansas past Bacone (Okla.) College 1-0, as junior Valanna Lyons and freshman Kelly Ninemire combined for nine strikeouts and the shutout.
The Lady'Backs had 10 hits in a 5-1 win over Connors (Okla.) State, with junior Linzee Roby getting the win.
"Overall, I was extremely pleased," said Arkansas first-year coach Jamie Pinkerton.
Lady'Backs Host No. 5 Florida In Volleyball
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