LAWRENCE, Kan. - The University of Arkansas volleyball team opens postseason play Friday with a first-round match against Wichita State in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Championship. First serve of the match is set for 4 p.m. (CT) at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. A free video stream of this weekend's matches will be available at NCAA.com and KUAthletics.com.
The Razorbacks are breaking a six-year with their selection into the field of 64. With Sunday's selection, Arkansas will be making the program's 10th NCAA appearance. The program is 7-9 overall, having advanced to a regional semifinal in 1998 and the second round on five other occasions (1996, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2005). This is the first NCAA appearance for the Razorbacks under the watch of fifth-year head coach Robert Pulliza.
"The fact that we were so close last year, I think it gave great fuel to these athletes," Pulliza said. "We wanted to make sure when we were in the room this year, we were on the celebrating side instead of the burst bubble. They committed themselves all spring and all summer to make it happen, and now that we're in the Big Dance, they're all excited to play this Friday."
Entering the weekend, Arkansas carries a 22-9 overall record and finished the conference season with a 13-7 tally. The team's 20-win season is the program's first since the 2005 season, and 10th in program history. The overall and SEC win totals are a program high under Pulliza. In the final RPI of the regular season, the Razorbacks are ranked No. 30. In the Nov. 25 release of the NCAA statistical rankings, the Razorbacks are ranked 39th in the country with a .250 hitting percentage and 50th with a 13.95 kills per set.
Arkansas and Wichita State last met in 2004 and the Razorbacks own a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series. In potential second-round matches, Arkansas and Kansas have played six times with each team winning three while the Razorbacks have never played Cleveland State. Earlier this season, the Razorbacks beat KU in four sets in the title match of the Arkansas Invitational.
When All-SEC awards were announced Monday, the Razorbacks collected four all-conference accolades, the program's largest single-season collection since 2003. Amanda Anderson was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Roslandy Acosta and Jasmine Norton earned All-SEC First- and Second-Team honors, respectively, while Liz Fortado was voted onto the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Wichita State, Friday's first-round opponent, enters the NCAA Tournament with a 22-9 overall record. The Shockers were also the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament runners-up. Wichita State has five players averaging more than two kills per set, led by Emily Adney with 3.03 kills per set. Junior setter Chelsey Feekin leads the NCAA with a .449 hitting percentage. Defensively, Jackie Church paces the team at 4.51 digs per set.
"Wichita State is a very good volleyball team," Pulliza said. "They're extremely competitive and have good physicality. This is a team that has beaten Colorado State and Oklahoma this year so they are legit. They have been to the NCAA Tournament with some of these players so they've been there before."
No. 11 national seed and site host Kansas is ranked 20th in the latest AVCA poll. The Jayhawks are 25-6 overall with a 12-4 mark in Big 12 play. Caroline Jarmoc leads KU with 3.53 kills per set, a .396 hitting percentage and 1.29 blocks per set. Junior libero Brianne Riley is ranked 43rd in the NCAA with 5.17 digs per set. Among six all-conference honors for the Jayhawks, Jarmoc was named to the All-Big 12 First Team while Riley was a second-team performer.
Cleveland State enters the weekend riding a 13-match winning streak, having just won the Horizon League tournament title. The Vikings owns a 23-6 overall record and 13-1 league tally. Kara Koch, the Horizon League Player of the Year, is seventh in the NCAA with 4.71 kills per set. As a team, Cleveland State is 15th in the nation with 17.90 digs per set. Senior libero Amanda Medvetz leads the team with 4.62 digs per set.
Match coverage will also include a video stream, interactive blog and live stats. The Arkansas-Wichita State match will also be broadcast on KXUA 88.3 FM in Fayetteville. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can also keep up with Arkansas volleyball with the team's sport-specific RazorbackVB Facebook and Twitter pages.