When it comes to the Women’s programs at the University of Arkansas there is so many success stories you could choose from. You have Lance Harter and the Track and Field program with 6 total National Championships. Then in golf you Shauna Taylor who has coached two individual national champions. Colby Hale and the Arkansas Soccer team has won back to back to back SEC Championships and Courtney Deifel and Arkansas softball has won back to back SEC titles and their first ever SEC Tournament Championship. The job that Coach Mike Neighbors has done to bring the basketball team from last place in the SEC to one of the top programs in the conference. Gymnastics with Coach Wieber and Tennis with Christina Quintinar. Most of these programs at some point have been at the very bottom of the SEC and where these programs are now and the progress each one has made in building them into competitive and respective programs not only in the SEC but in the Nation. That brings us to the next program. The Arkansas Volleyball team under Coach Jason Watson.
When Coach Watson arrived in Fayetteville the volleyball team went 9-21 overall and 7-11 in conference play. in the 17-18 year he had some success going 19-11 but the next couple years took a dip not reaching .500 for the next two seasons. His roster started to change and he started recruiting players like Graduate Seniors Hailey Dirrigl and Gracie Ryan. The next year he was able to get Jill Gillen and Maggie Cartwright. After that they had another key piece with Taylor Head. Arkansas was on a roll playing strictly SEC play and was 14-8 riding a 3 game winning streak heading into the series with Auburn when COVID shut down the sports world. Forever lives would be changed but for the athletes an extra year was awarded to those and that leads us to where we are now. After going 20-11 and accepting their first post season bid under Watson the program was on the rise and coming into this season they had the depth to make some noise taking defending National Champs Kentucky to 5 sets before falling 3-2.
To open the season this year Arkansas hosted its first top 10 team opening night in program history and going into the match Watson was fearful he hadn’t given his team much time to prepare but that didn’t matter. Arkansas welcomed the Huskies on Aug 26th and took them down in 4 sets 3-1. Even thought they split the series it was a milestone win for the program and it wouldnt stop there. Just this past week No 7 Georgia Tech came into Barnhill Arena for the Arkansas Challenge and the team knew it would be a tall task coming off 6 straight match sweeps to beat the Yellowjackets but in the same fashion pulled off their second top 10 upset of the year 3-1. Then the following night capped off the Challenge with another 3-1 win over NC State.
Arkansas now gets ready for SEC play starting at LSU on Wednesday and even thought the conference slate hasnt started yet you cant help but look back at where they have came from and all the other Womens programs at Arkansas. Athletes like Shaffer,Hambrick,Lovett. Fassi, Lopez and Matthews. Dungee, Monk, Ramirez and Tolefree. Goins, Podojil,Malham. Gibson, Malkin, McEwen, and Haff. All of these names mentioned have set the foundation for their respected programs and soon you will remember Gillen, Head, Cartwright, Dirrigl, and Ryan. These are the last names of the volleyball team that has set the foundation for Coach Watson and the future. This is the next program up.