Bump, Set, Spike!
This past Friday, our Razorback volleyball team participated in their first NCAA tournament since 2013, and their first under Coach Jason Watson.
The news of them making the tournament was met with much emotion after being left on the bubble last year and that same fear looming this year as they were selected as the final entryinto the field of 64.
Our sixteen-member team headed out to Eugene, Oregon, ready to face its competition, and they made short work of their first opponent, Utah State. The Razorbacks swept the Aggies 3-0(25-19, 25-14, 25-15) in the opening round. Not necessarily aneasy feat. Teams don’t get selected for the tournament that aren’t good teams. The Razorbacks just made it look easy.
Advancing to the round of 32 for the first time since 2005, the Lady Razorbacks found themselves facing the #3 seeded Oregon Ducks. They came out battling hard in the first set, taking it 25-19, but they would ultimately drop the next 3 sets 20-25, 20-25,9-25, to end their run to the championship. A valiant effort. Despite the tournament not ending as anyone would have hoped, it is a testament to these female student athletes to be able to accomplish what had not been for a decade.
The tournament wrapped up the second 20-win season for Coach Watson, a feat unmatched since 2012, and brought all-SEC honors for Senior Jillian Gillen of Stilwell, Kansas, and Junior Taylor Head of Winter Garden, Florida.
As programs go, volleyball is one of the “newer” sports fielded by the University of Arkansas, beginning in 1994. In a case of timing is everything, the home for this new program would be the newly renovated and converted Barnhill Arena, which had closed its doors to basketball at the conclusion of the 1993 season. It was the largest volleyball-only arena until 2002 when the gymnastics program joined its space. True to its commitment to all sports, the University’s athletic program provides state of the art facilities at Barnhill to help the young women become all they can be now and supporting their dreams of life after college, in whatever forms those take.
To the team, I say Thank You! for a great season! You competed hard, represented us well, and made Razorback Nation proud! To those returning next year, I look forward to watching you again and hope that next season is even better for all of you than this one. To those graduating, I wish you the best of luck in all that you do and thank you for being one of us. (Trying very hard not to sound like an airline pilot saying ‘we know you have choices when you travel and thank you for flying with us’….). With only three Arkansas natives on the roster, it is evident that Coach Watson and his staff are recruiting well and building a program that is getting noticed on a national level.