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Courtesy: Walt Beazley
Raymariely Santos (center) tallied a double-double against UT-Martin.
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Sweep of UT-Martin in season opener

08/25/2012
Zach Lawson, Athletic Media Relations
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FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team opened its 2012 season with a straight-set victory (25-16, 25-18, 25-19) over UT-Martin Friday evening at Barnhill Arena. Six players registered at least six kills against the Skyhawks, including a match-high 10 kills from senior Roslandy Acosta. The Razorbacks combined for a .348 hitting percentage and held their opponent to a .087 figure.

Junior setter Raymariely Santos collected a double-double performance with 25 assists and a team-high 13 digs. She added seven kills to her output. Senior Janeliss Torres-Lopez finished the night with nine kills and four total blocks. Santos, Kasey Heckelman and Jasmine Norton each had seven kills against UT-Martin. Norton also had 10 digs. Freshman Liz Fortado had a match-high five total blocks in her collegiate debut.

“It always feels good to start the season with a win,” head coach Robert Pulliza said. “We did some good things but at times we were a little sloppy and jittery. But that’s expected being the first match out. I liked our effort tonight and now we have to re-gather for a quick turnaround against Northwestern State in the morning.”

The Razorbacks won the first four points of the match, and built a lead as large as nine on their way to a first-set win against UT-Martin. Fortado bookended the set with kills, helping Arkansas to the 25-16 win in the opener. In the first set, the Arkansas defense posted four total blocks and held the Skyhawks to a .030 hitting percentage.

“We really went out there to dig everything,” junior libero Emily Helm said. “That’s something we’re really focusing on, digging as many balls as we can. That just frustrates the hitters on the other side so I think it helped us out in being fearless and doing our thing defensively.”

In the second set, the offense dominated play with a .485 output. Five Razorbacks had at least two kills during the game, including six from Acosta. With the score tied at six, the home team reeled off seven consecutive points to seize control of the set. A kill from Norton gave Arkansas its first nine-point lead of the game. On the team’s third set point, Acosta found the floor to send the Razorbacks to the halftime with a 25-18 win.

The third set was the tightest of the night with Arkansas never gaining more than a three-point lead through the first half of the game. Torres-Lopez had a kill to give the Razorbacks a 16-11 lead but the visitors won five of the next seven points to force Pulliza to call his first timeout of the match. Arkansas won the last three points of the match including the final kill from Santos.

In the first match Friday, Kansas beat Northwestern State in straight sets. The Razorbacks will play Northwestern State at 11 a.m. (CT) Saturday and return to the court for the tournament finale against Kansas at 7 p.m. The Arkansas Invitational is the first of two home tournaments for the Razorbacks this season.

General admission at Barnhill Arena is $4 with fans 17 and younger getting in free. University of Arkansas students attending volleyball matches this season are asked to use the street-level entrance on Stadium Drive to enter Barnhill Arena. Those students who have their cards swiped will receive 1,500 RazorReward points. Students attending the Kansas match Saturday will also have the opportunity to win an iPod Touch.

For match coverage of this weekend’s Arkansas Invitational, including interactive blog, live stats and video stream, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Both of the Razorbacks’ matches Saturday will be broadcast on KXUA 88.3 FM in Fayetteville. New to the 2012 season, fans can also keep up with Razorback volleyball with its sport-specific RazorbackVB Twitter and Facebook accounts.

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