UA Volleyball Team Visits Alabama

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' volleyball team (5-8), the Southeastern Conference West leader at 3-1 after three straight wins, travels to two small but scary gyms in Alabama this weekend.

On Friday night, the Lady Razorbacks take on Auburn (6-6, 1-3 SEC) in the Tigers' cozy Student Activities Center, capacity 1,320.

"The atmosphere is smaller, the lights are lower and everything is crowded," said UA coach Chris Poole.

Then on Sunday afternoon, Arkansas plays in the 1,000-seat "Cave," an auxiliary gym at Alabama (12-3, 2-2 SEC).

"That's Alabama's practice court," Poole said. "It's a tight fit -- they got 1,000 fans for their last match. They're right on top of you."

Now that Arkansas has moved up from No. 93 to No. 64 on the unofficial RPI, Poole pines over early losses to Santa Clara (three match points) and Ball State (16 service errors).

"We still have the ability to have a big year, but we can't slip up," Poole said. "We're the only team in the top 64 under .500."

Auburn, at No. 102, has its best team in four years, and Alabama features Erin Heffner, a senior outside hitter who leads the SEC with 4.71 kills per game.

"Our defense is ahead of our offense," Poole said. "We're stacking our bigger blockers at the net, so maybe we can slow Heffner down."

Poole praised freshman Jessica Dorrell, Amy Allison and the other Lady'Backs for erasing a 28-25 deficit to nip Mississippi State 30-25 in Game 3 of a four-game win on Sunday.

Allison is fourth in SEC hitting percentage at .390, and Arkansas leads the SEC in digs and blocks.

The Lady'Backs soccer team (6-5-1, 2-1-1 SEC) plays Tennessee (7-2-2, 4-0-0), the top team in the SEC, at Knoxville at 6 p.m. Friday, then visits Georgia (2-6-3, 0-3-1) on Sunday.

"Both games would be bonus points for us," said Arkansas coach Gordon Henderson. "But I think we match up quite well against Georgia. They've been on the road four straight games and have struggled, but they have one of the most talented squads in the SEC."

Henderson said the Lady'Backs have reached the heart of the SEC schedule.

"We played well in defeating Mississippi State (2-1) last week, but we had a letdown against Ole Miss (losing 3-0). Our concentration level must be higher for the whole game."

Ruby Vaden, Arkansas' 6-foot-3 junior basketball center from Osceola, had arthroscopic surgery to "clean up" her knee recently, but should be ready when the Lady Razorbacks begin practice this month, according to UA women's sports information director Bill Smith.

The Lady'Backs will not take part in Midnight Madness this season.

Yawna Allen, a UA freshman tennis player, defeated Leslie Stewart of Louisville 6-1, 6-1 last weekend as Arkansas went 22-19 at the Kentucky Fall Classic.

It was the fourth time Allen had held an opponent to four or fewer game wins in a match this season.

"We had a strong final day," said Arkansas coach Michael Hegarty. "We continue to make key improvements, but right now we are competing just under a breakout level of play."

Arkansas is 57-28 in sets for the semester.

Lady'Backs track coach Lance Harter, who guided Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo to eight NCAA Division II cross country titles and six track titles in 10 years, was inducted into that school's Hall of Fame last week.

"We had a very good run there," said Harter, the UA coach since 1990. "It's always nice to be remembered for what you have accomplished. What I enjoyed most about Cal Poly was being able to teach and coach at the same time."

Harter's wife Kim and son Jeff accompanied him for the ceremonies.

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