UA Hot In Time For Chile Pepper

FAYETTEVILLE -- Lance Harter expects senior Alison Zeinner Rush and junior Penny Splichal to be his Lady Razorbacks cross country team's top-two finishers in the 13th Chile Pepper Festival on Saturday.

Eleventh-ranked SMU should be the toughest competition for No. 21 Arkansas.

The Lady'Backs have been ranked as high as 16th in the FinishLynx/NCAA Women's Cross Country Poll this season, but Harter said, "We must have done something to irritate them."

In truth, Arkansas is in its best shape of the season.

"We're finally starting to get people healthy," Harter said. "We've had one setback after another."

For example, Harter said, "We went to the Griak Invitational in Minnesota -one of the major invitationals for distance runners - and, unfortunately, right before the race Maureen Scott became ill. Splichal hurt her foot and couldn't run and Erica Sigmont was still bothered by an injury.

"We had a partial squad and still finished fifth. We beat a lot of nationally-ranked teams."

Could the Lady'Backs all come together on Saturday?

"It's a possibility," Harter said. "But SMU will be loaded. Now Sigmont has gotten bronchitis, so we have to be careful for the Southeastern Conference Meet (Oct. 30 at Agri Park). In the SEC, we have to have everyone on the line. That's always the event we try to protect. We don't want to take a chance and lose someone at the expense of the conference meet."

Saturday's race begins at 10:30 a.m. at Agri Park.


Arkansas' soccer team (6-6-2), still second in the SEC West with a 2-2-2 record, scored just one point last weekend but still pleased coach Gordon Henderson.

"We played as well as we could have played in losing (3-1) to one of the top teams in the nation, Tennessee," Henderson said. "Then we got a scoreless tie against a Georgia team that was a little fatigued and beat up. That one point could prove to be quite important."

The Lady'Backs return home against SEC West leader Auburn (10-2-1, 5-0-1 SEC) at 7 p.m. Friday, then welcome Alabama (6-8-0, 2-4-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

"Auburn is nationally-ranked and is probably the next best team to Tennessee in our league," Henderson said. "Alabama and ourselves are considered to be cusp teams for the SEC Tournament. A win for either of us could be very big."

Arkansas probably needs at least a win and a tie in its final five matches to assure a berth in the eight-team conference tournament, but Henderson said, "I've placed a ban on talking about it on our team."

The Lady'Backs got so excited over their strong SEC start that Henderson wants to make sure they stay in the present tense.

UA freshman Sarah Gwisdala suffered "a nasty ankle knock" last weekend as a target of opposing defenders, but Henderson said, "She's a tough young thing" and could possibly play Friday.

Junior Megan McCool will play despite hip and back pain.

Arkansas has jumped from 64th to 44th in the volleyball power rankings, thanks to road wins against Auburn and No. 19 Alabama last weekend.

"Alabama 100 percent expected to beat us," said UA coach Chris Poole. "But we had a great battle in their small gym and did a lot of things right. That was a big boost for our confidence. It's satisfying to be 5-1 in the SEC."

The improving Lady'Backs, 7-8 overall after five straight wins, have a two-game lead over second-place Alabama (3-3) in the SEC West. They stay on the road this week at Georgia and No. 10 Florida.

"Georgia is fighting for third in the SEC -- we're third overall now behind Florida and Tennessee -- so they need to close the gap," Poole said. "Georgia is No. 47 in the RPI, so this is a must win for us, too. A loss to Florida wouldn't knock us out of the NCAA Tournament."

Florida, 14-2 overall and tied with Tennessee at 6-0 in the SEC, had a recent loss to Texas and is ranked lower than at any time since Arkansas began volleyball.

"They're still dangerous," Poole said. "But if we get everyone on the same page, we could play with Florida and beat them."

Arkansas has typically played well in Georgia's small gym, but has never won at Florida, which averages 2,500 in home attendance.

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