– Facing a 0-2 match deficit, the University of Arkansas volleyball team rallied past Kentucky in five sets (22-25, 16-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-10) Sunday afternoon at Barnhill Arena. Jasmine Norton
tied her season high with a match-best 22 kills and Roslandy Acosta
registered her fourth double-double of the season with 17 kills and 20 digs, both career-high numbers.
“I’m extremely proud of the effort and character our team showed today,” head coach Robert Pulliza
said. “We beat a very good team. Not only did we beat a very good team but we had do it coming from two sets behind. We started a little off and our energy was all over the board. We were not executing in the first two sets. We talked about finding our collective effort and getting organized.
“We had to make a decision. Either we were going to commit to going after it to win in five or we were going to lay down and give it away. Our team committed to being great and I’m very proud of them. It was a great effort from them.”
With the victory, Arkansas improved to 19-8 overall and 10-6 in Southeastern Conference play. The team’s 19 wins are the most under Pulliza and the 10 conference wins ties the team’s output last season. Sunday’s win is the first time an Arkansas team has rallied from a 0-2 deficit since the 2008 season. For the second time this season, the Razorbacks avoided a three-match losing streak by beating Kentucky.
posted her team-leading 14th double-double of the season. The Razorback setter finished the match with 43 assists and 10 digs. Liz Fortado
tallied nine kills and a .391 hitting percentage while Amanda Anderson
added eight kills. Junior libero Emily Helm
tied Acosta for the match lead with 20 digs and freshman Monica Bollinger
established a new career best with 13 digs. During the match, Anderson recorded her 250th career block.
In the decisive fifth set, Arkansas (19-8, 10-6 SEC) raced out to a 4-1 lead. The home team held a 7-4 advantage after a tandem block from Acosta and Janeliss Torres-Lopez
. From that point, Kentucky (17-10, 11-6 SEC) got no closer than two. When the teams switched sides, the Razorbacks held an 8-5 advantage.
Fortado and Norton posted back-to-back kills to push the Arkansas lead to 12-8. A kill by Anderson kept the advantage at four, 13-9, and the team arrived at match point after a UK attack error by Ashley Frazier. On the team’s second opportunity to close out the match, Kentucky’s Jackie Napper sent her serve into the net to seal the Razorback victory.
Kentucky won the first four points of the match before giving the Razorbacks their first point with a service error. Arkansas trailed by as much as five before the team started to chip away. Using a three-point push, capped by a service ace by Anderson, the Razorbacks pulled even at 15-all. However, the Wildcats won the next two points to regain control.
The visitors arrived at set point following a Lauren O’Conner kill and led, 24-19. Arkansas saved three set points with back-to-back kills from Norton and a second-contact kill by Santos. On its fourth chance, Kentucky clinched the game, 25-22, with a kill by Christine Hartmann.
The Wildcats won three of the first four points of the second set before Arkansas rallied to pull even at 7-7 after a UK attack error. With a kill on the next point by Fortado, the Razorbacks grabbed their first lead of the match. With the score tied at 12-all, Kentucky scored the next six points in the decisive move of the game. The Wildcats won the last four points to win the set, 25-16, and take the 2-0 match lead.
In the third set, Kentucky took an early advantage and led by three, 12-9, after kill by O’Conner. The Razorbacks responded with a five-point surge to take a 14-12 lead. With the score tied at 14-all, the home team scored seven of the next 10 points. During the run of points, Arkansas took advantage of five UK attack and service errors. The Wildcats made a final push to pull to within two points; Arkansas led, 21-19.
Out of a timeout called by Pulliza
, the Razorbacks rattled off four straight to win the set. After a kill by Fortado on the right side, the final three points of the game came off the arm of Norton. The Razorback senior had eight kills in the game. Arkansas combined for a .325 hitting percentage in the third set.
“We came out slow and played tired in the beginning,” Norton said. “But between games two and three, we came together and said ‘hey, we’ve beaten this team before’ and we used that fire to give us confidence to finish the match.”
The Razorback carried the momentum into the fourth set, taking a 4-1 lead after an O’Conner attack error. The home team never trailed in the set but Kentucky pulled even at 11-all with back-to-back kills by Alexandra Morgan. Arkansas won the next five points to re-establish its advantage. The seven-point lead at 21-14 was the team’s largest of the set. The Wildcats got as close as four points down the stretch but, like she did in the third, Norton found the floor to win game and even the match at 2-2.
Arkansas returns to Barnhill Arena next weekend for a pair of SEC matches against Georgia and Ole Miss. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can also keep up with Arkansas volleyball through the team’s sport-specific RazorbackVB Facebook and Twitter pages.