During the Razorback volleyball team’s first scrimmage Saturday, fans got a taste of what they should expect from the Hogs this season, and they were left wanting more.
After the first action the team has had, head coach Jason Watson said he was pleased with where the team was.
“The average level of play just keeps getting better and better,” Watson said. “We’re being fairly mindful from the serving line and that was a goal for us, to cut down on those areas. We’re seeing and responding to the game a bit better and playing with some absolutes. Every now and then we slip and go back to some old things, but overall it’s been a solid two weeks.”
The players impressed in their two-game match with the outside hitters like Danielle Harbin and Savannah Voelzke providing some excitement with every kill they had. Their play bodes well for the team in the future with the position being a high point for the team.
Another player who had a strong day was sophomore Kelly O’Brien, a transfer from Wyoming. O’Brien adds depth to the middle blocker position and provided some great defense on the back row during the scrimmage.
That being said, Watson said there was room for growth on the team.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do but it’s good work,” Watson said. “It’s not something we are intimidated by.”
Watson was also high on his two true freshmen players, setter Rachel Rippee and outside hitter Regan Robinson.
“It’s a tough deal for freshmen but they’re talented,” Watson said. “The stage is a little bit bigger, the players are a little bit more experienced and maybe the pace is a bit faster, but they’ve adjusted pretty well.”
Rippee has been with the team since January and has had more time to get used to the program, but Robinson impressed Watson and fans with each kill the 5-foot-11-inch Fayetteville local recorded.
“I’ve been really pleased with the work that Reagan has done,” Watson said.
One moment that had viewers holding their breath was when senior Barbara Dapic went down with an apparent ankle injury early in the second game. She came back to the court and was icing it on the sideline during the rest of the match. It is still too early to tell how extensive the injury is or how long it will keep the star Croatian out, according to Watson.
“We’re optimistic that she’ll be ready to go by next week,” Watson said. “When anything like that happens, we’re going to air on the side of caution. Our athletic trainer is phenomenal so I am not at all concerned that (Dapic) won’t be available next weekend. I think it scared her more than anything.”
Arkansas’ first eight games of the season are on the road against three top-15 teams, including Illinois, Kansas and defending national champion Nebraska. Watson has stressed the importance of playing quality competition before, saying that it benefits the team come tournament time when selecting the teams that go.
“We’re going to challenge our team in ways they probably haven't been challenged to date,” Watson said. “I’m optimistic we are going to learn an enormous amount from our team.
The Razorbacks will travel to Champaign, Illinois, to face No. 14 Illinois on Aug. 26 for the first game of the 2016 season. Arkansas will return to Barnhill Arena on Sept. 16 for a doubleheader against Southern Mississippi and Kansas State.