Arkansas Volleyball eyes playoffs with deep, talented squad

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FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — After a season that ended in a bid for the NIVC and a loss to UNLV, Arkansas’ volleyball team is set to enter an NCAA bid. Showing the signs of a promising year, they led 5th-ranked Kentucky to 5 sets in both matches before falling 3-2 each time. Arkansas is chosen to finish 4th in the SEC and has one of the deepest rosters in Coach Watson’s 7 years in Fayetteville. They have a balanced mix of returning starters with three transfers and two highly touted freshmen.

Senior graduate Gracie Ryan is looking forward to her final season at Arkansas. Ryan, of Orlando, Fla., is an all-time leader in attendance at No. 5 and needs just 749 to finish in the top three. Gracie was named SEC Setter of the Week after registering 50-plus assists twice this week as well as three straight double-doubles and recording six blocks in the Tulsa tournament.

Another returning starter and All-SEC performer is Jillian Gillen senior. Gillen is the only Razorback on the All SEC Preseason squad. She led the Hogs with 4.12 wins per set, which ranked her second in the SEC. With 1,261 eliminations, Jillian joins 17 others in the 1,000 elimination club and currently sits in 13th place all-time. In addition to her All-SEC selection, she was named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row.

Senior Maggie Cartwright of Kimberly, Wisconsin is Arkansas’ leading aces queen with 43 last season and led the team with service aces per set, which was good for third place in the SEC. Cartwright also added a season-high 273 kills and 300 digs on the year.

Sophomore Taylor Head started every game last season and was second on the team in knockouts and knockouts per set. The 5-10 junior from Winter Garden, Fla. has been a big fixture since setting foot on campus and set or tied career highs in nine different categories last season, including 13 double-doubles last season. . Was named Bobcat Tournament MVP with 40 kills and 7 aces.

Incoming freshmen include Kylie Weeks, a 5-9 outside hitter/Libero from Elkhorn, Nebraska. Weeks won a state championship in 2020 and was named an All State as well as a top 10 prospect in her state. Avery Calame, a 5-11 outside hitter from Plano, Texas, surpassed 1,000 digs for McKinney-Boyd HS and was named to the 2021 AVCA All-America Watch List. Finally, Skylar Ellison, a 6- 1 of Aledo, Texas had 161 kills and 11 aces in his senior season.

Arkansas has key transfers with 6’4 middle tackle Tatum Shipes Shipes coming to Fayetteville as a graduate transfer through Auburn, where she played for the Tigers the past four seasons. Shipes played his first college season as a midfielder in 2021 and was one of the best defensive players in the SEC. She started every game for Auburn and ranked first in the conference in total blocks (142) and blocks per set (1.42), which also ranked 21st and sixth in the nation. Both metrics are new records for Auburn’s single-season program in the rally scoring era, as well as first place in assists with 120.

Sophomore’s hometown Rosanna Hicks also comes to Fayetteville. Hicks Rosana Hicks is a hometown product who graduated from Fayetteville High School in 2021. A 6’1 pin hitter, Hicks is a former All-Arkansas Preps Player of the Year and had a stellar career with the Bulldogs. Over four seasons, she amassed 1,250 FHS kills and had a .325 hit percentage. Hicks has led the Bulldogs in playoffs every season. She was a three-time All-6A West Conference selection, an AVCA All-Region team selection. She joins the Razorbacks as a sophomore

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