FAYETTEVILLE - For the first time since the 2005 season, the University of Arkansas volleyball team won its 20th match of the season with a four-set victory over Georgia (25-18, 19-25, 25-16, 25-16) Friday evening at Barnhill Arena. In the win, the Razorbacks registered a .370 hitting percentage behind four double-digit kill performances and a 52-assist night from Raymariely Santos.
"I thought we played three unbelievable sets and credit to Georgia in the second set," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "You cannot just sit back against a team like that because they will take advantage of those opportunities. Credit to our team for responding after that second set and understanding that we are on a journey and that we have to take care of business."
Jasmine Norton and Janeliss Torres-Lopez led all players with 15 kills each, while Amanda Anderson and Roslandy Acosta added 14 and 13 kills, respectively. In the middle, Torres-Lopez posted a .652 hitting percentage (15-0-23) and Anderson hit .600 (14-2-20). Norton completed her 14th double-double of the season with 13 digs. Libero Emily Helm had a team-high 15 digs and Monica Bollinger added 11 digs behind the block. Santos added nine digs and five kills to her effort against the Bulldogs.
With the win, Arkansas (20-8, 11-6 SEC) completed the season sweep of the Bulldogs and improved to 18-9 all-time against Georgia. The team's 11 wins in Southeastern Conference play are a program high under Pulliza, surpassing the team's 10 league wins last season.
After an even start between the teams, the Razorbacks used a four-point surge to take a 14-11 lead in the first set and force Georgia (13-14, 7-10 SEC) to call its first timeout of the match. The Bulldogs pulled to within two but out of a timeout, Arkansas re-established a four-point lead, 20-16, after a kill from Torres-Lopez. The home team won the last four points of the set and a kill Anderson closed out the opener in favor of the Razorbacks, 25-18. Torres-Lopez and Anderson combined for 12 kills in the first set.
With the score tied early in the second set, Arkansas opened up a 12-9 lead with a quick push aided by a kill and service ace by Acosta. However, the visitors won 11 of the next 12 points to take control of the set. Bollinger stepped back to the service line to pick up two aces to get Arkansas back to within three points with Georgia leading, 20-17. The Bulldogs withstood the charge and evened the match with a 25-19 set win.
Out of intermission, the Razorbacks jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third set. Georgia fought back to within one but Arkansas reeled off three straight to secure a 10-6 lead and force a timeout from the visitors. The Razorbacks started to open their lead and with consecutive kills on the outside by Norton and Acosta, the home team took a 20-11 lead. Regaining her presence in the middle, Torres-Lopez put down the final three kills of the set.
"It's awesome to see the seniors step up to the plate and turn the match around to bring it home on their senior weekend," Pulliza said. "We're not just talking about a senior night. We're talking about senior weekend and senior week, and taking advantage of every opportunity that we have to play in Barnhill Arena with the band and Razorback Nation. They embraced it when it counted today and got it done."
The Bulldogs won four of the first six points of the fourth set before Arkansas responded with a run of points to go ahead 12-9 following a kill out of the middle by Anderson. Later in the set, the Razorbacks turned a two-point advantage into a 21-14 lead following a tandem block by Norton and Torres-Lopez. Arkansas closed out the match on a 9-2 run and on the team's second match point, Anderson put the ball down for the 3-1 match win. Santos directed the Razorbacks to a .643 hitting percentage in the final set.
The Razorbacks close out their home schedule Sunday at Barnhill Arena against Ole Miss. First serve of the Western Division matchup is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. (CT). For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can also follow Arkansas volleyball through the team's sport-specific RazorbackVB Facebook and Twitter pages.