Lady'Backs Relaxed For NCAA Matchup

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas volleyball coach Chris Poole is hoping the Lady Razorbacks look upon tonight's NCAA Tournament match against Missouri in the Hearnes Center as a new lease on life.

After sweating out their status for the 64-team NCAA field the last several months, the Lady'Backs were given a spot in the tournament on Sunday despite a 17-15 record. Since then, they've been working toward staying in it.

"We've had good practices this week," Poole said. "There's a sense that the pressure has been taken off. I really think the pressure of making the tournament had as much to do with some of our late-season 'whoopses' as anything."

Even though Arkansas is playing a 19-8 Missouri team that finished high in the Big 12 Conference, Poole said, "I hope now we can take a deep breath, relax, play and have fun."

But Poole knows from first-hand experience how formidable Missouri can be.

"We played them at Missouri last season and lost in four games," he said. "They're a very talented team. They return all but one starter -- an outside hitter -- and they've replaced her with an experienced Chinese player with a lot of international experience."

Poole said Missouri also has one of the best setters in the country.

Lisa Boyd leads the Tigers with 266 kills and a .392 hitting percentage. Three of her teammates also are hitting above .300.

Arkansas is a solid blocking team, though, and Poole trusts the Lady'Backs won't be intimidated.

"We've played so many good teams this season that I hope we can look at this as just another good team we're playing," he said.

Arkansas defeated Missouri in 1995 and 1999 before losing to the Tigers 30-15, 30-18, 26-30, 30-16 last year at the Quality Inn Invitational in the Hearnes Center.

"We have tapes of two of their matches this year," Poole said. "But the key is what we do on our side of the net -- how consistently we play and whether we minimize our errors."

The Lady'Backs are coming off a split of two matches in Fort Worth last weekend. They lost to TCU in five games before sweeping SMU in three.

Arkansas squandered a two-game lead against TCU -- something it also did against LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament before recovering to beat the Tigers in Game 5.

Arkansas is 7-3 in five-game matches.

UA senior Jennifer Haaser leads the team with a .234 hitting percentage, followed by Dorrell at .212, Kele Brewer at .199 and Amy Allison at .183.

"It's hard not to pay attention to the stats," Dorrell said. "But we're all just trying to win, no matter who gets the stats. We're very team-oriented."

Poole expects Missouri to have about 2,000 fans on hand tonight.

Should Arkansas pull an upset, the Lady'Backs would meet the winner of the Illinois-Louisville match at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Illinois (19-10) beat Arkansas in Barnhill Arena in four games this season. Louisville (28-2) swept Arkansas in Barnhill last season, 30-28, 30-22, 30-27.

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