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Courtesy: Gunnar Rathbun
For the second time in two seasons, the Razorbacks rallied from a two-set deficit.
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Razorbacks Rally Past New Mexico

08/30/2013
Athletic Communications
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FAYETTEVILLE – Down two sets, the University of Arkansas rallied past New Mexico in five sets (22-25, 22-25, 25-16, 25-20, 15-6) Friday night in front of 1,127 fans at Barnhill Arena. Senior Hayley Koop paced with team with 15 kills and a .414 hitting percentage. At the service line, senior Ashley Vazquez had a career-high seven aces and set the school record for number of aces in a five-set match. With the win, the Razorbacks improved to 2-0 on the young season and are in line to play for the Arkansas Invitational team title.

Arkansas returns to the court Saturday to wrap its weekend with a 1 p.m. match against UMKC. Following the New Mexico-Northwestern State match at 4 p.m., a ceremony will be held to recognize the event champion and all-tournament performers, including MVP and Most Outstanding Libero.

“That was a gutsy performance from our team,” head coach Robert Pulliza said. “We played hard from the beginning of the match but we weren’t playing well in the first set. We actually did some great things in the second set but we were unorganized on some crucial points. We talked about it between sets two and three and the players put in an unbelievable performance. I’m really proud of our team.”

In the deciding set, Arkansas won five of the first seven points and when the teams switched sides of the net, the Razorbacks held an 8-5 advantage. The team used a 5-0 run in the middle of the set to take control and led 12-5 after a kill out of the middle from freshman Ana Sofia Jusino. The Lobos won the next point but Arkansas reeled off the final three points of the match, capped by an ace from sophomore Monica Bollinger.

Arkansas finished the match with 14 aces, 10 of which came over the final three sets of Friday’s match. The Razorbacks’ serving total is now tied for the fourth-most aces by an Arkansas team in one match. Offensively, Arkansas also benefitted from 15 kills from junior Meredith Hays and 11 kills from freshman Danielle Harbin. Behind the block, senior Emily Helm had a team-high 18 digs.

The Razorbacks won the first three points of the fourth set and led 9-4 after a kill from Hays. After a service ace from senior Raymariely Santos and a kill from Koop, Arkansas’ lead was nine points at 17-8. The Lobos chipped away at the lead and pulled to within two late in the set but the home team responded with three in a row to re-establish momentum. A kill from Koop gave the team set point and on an attack error by UNM, Arkansas forced the match into a fifth set.

In the third set, Arkansas turned an early 3-3 tie into an 8-3 advantage behind the serve of Vazquez. During the run, the Gurabo, Puerto Rico, native tallied three service aces. The balance of the Razorbacks’ offense was on full display in game three with six players posting at least two kills. The home team led by as many as 10 points on two separate occasions, the last coming at 22-12. Defensively, Arkansas held the Lobos to a .065 hitting percentage in the set. A service error by UNM handed the Razorbacks the game, 25-16.

“We stayed calm and we stayed assertive,” Santos said. “We knew what we could do because we’ve been doing it all preseason. It comes really natural for this team to put the pedal to the metal when we’re down. We practice those situations. We just had to stay calm and it eventually went our way.”

The first two sets ended in favor of New Mexico with identical scores of 25-22. In both cases, the teams played back-and-forth volleyball before the Lobos pulled away in the late stages. Arkansas’ rally from a 0-2 hole is its second in as many seasons. Last year in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks were down two sets to Kentucky in an eventual five-set victory. Prior to that, the program hadn’t erased an 0-2 deficit since the 2008 season.

In their first match of the day, the Razorbacks posted a straight-set win (25-23, 25-17, 25-17) over Northwestern State. Five different players had at least five kills against the Lady Demons, led by Hays and Koop with nine each. Santos tallied her first double-double performance of the season with 19 assists and 11 digs to go along with five kills.

For more information on Arkansas volleyball, follow @RazorbackVB on Twitter.

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