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Courtesy: Walt Beazley
Liz Fortado had a career-high 13 kills Friday at South Carolina.
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Razorbacks lose regular-season finale

11/23/2012
Zach Lawson, Athletic Media Relations
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – On the final day of the regular season in the Southeastern Conference, the University of Arkansas volleyball team dropped a five-set decision to South Carolina (24-26, 25-18, 28-26, 19-25, 15-10) Friday afternoon in Columbia, S.C. Jasmine Norton finished the match with a team-high 18 kills while freshman Liz Fortado added a career-best 13 kills against the Gamecocks. With the loss, Arkansas closes out its 2012 regular season with a 22-9 overall record and a 13-7 mark in league play.

With the regular season now complete, Arkansas awaits a possible postseason selection. The 2012 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Selection Show will air Sunday at 3 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU. The Razorbacks finished the regular season with the program’s first 20-win season since 2005 and the team’s 13 conference wins are its most under fifth-year head coach Robert Pulliza.

The Razorbacks finished the match with four double-digit kill performances. In addition to Norton and Fortado, Roslandy Acosta and Amanda Anderson tallied 13 and 11 kills, respectively. Junior setter Raymariely Santos equaled her season high with 54 assists on her way to setting Arkansas to a .322 hitting percentage, its 10th match of the year with figure of .300 or higher. During Friday’s match, Santos moved into third place on the program’s all-time list with 2,868 career assists.

With their respective efforts against South Carolina, Norton moved into eighth place on the SEC all-time kills list and Anderson moved into a tie for 19th on Arkansas’ career kills list. Now with 1,783 kills during her career, Norton moved past former SEC standouts Shonda Cole of South Carolina (2003-06) and Tamala Brightman of Tennessee (1990-93) into her current position. Anderson has amassed 780 career kills as a middle blocker.

In the decisive fifth set, South Carolina (18-14, 6-14 SEC) jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Fortado put down the Razorbacks’ first kill. When the teams switched sides, the Gamecocks were ahead, 8-4. In an extended rally, Arkansas got an assist from a support beam that kept a ball in play during a point eventually won by the Razorbacks with a block from Fortado and Janeliss Torres-Lopez.

From that play, however, the Gamecocks turned a three-point lead into a five-point advantage with a pair of kills from Jenna Allen. The home team arrived at set point with a 14-8 lead. Arkansas won the next two points by way of an SC service error and an Anderson-Norton block. On the team’s third match point, South Carolina sealed the five-set victory with a kill from Bethanie Thomas.

With the score tied after an even start to the first set, the Razorbacks reeled off six consecutive points to establish an 18-12 lead. However, the home team responded with a surge of points to pull to within one. Norton stopped a five-point run by the Gamecocks with a kill out of the back row and Arkansas led, 19-17. South Carolina responded once again and took a 22-21 lead with a kill by Juliette Thevenin, who finished the day with a match-high 26 kills.

After a Gamecock miscue and a kill by Norton, Arkansas regained the advantage in the final lead change of the game. South Carolina saved one set point before the Razorbacks clinched the opener with consecutive kills from Anderson and Santos, respectively.

South Carolina played with a lead for all but one point in the second set. The Gamecocks led by as much as three early before Arkansas pulled even at 11-11 with a Thevenin attack error. From that play, South Carolina won eight of the next 11 points to seize control and establish a five-point lead at 19-14. The Razorbacks made a final push with three straight points but the home team withstood the charge to come away with a 25-18 set win.

The tale of the third game unfolded with the home team holding a handful of set points at 24-20. Including a pair of Norton kills, Arkansas won the next four points to pull even on the scoreboard. On the next two set points for South Carolina, Santos pushed the ball out to Norton and the senior attacker responded with a pair of kills. However, on their seventh set point, the Gamecocks secured the game and took a 2-1 match lead with a kill by Cara Howley on overpassed ball.

The Razorbacks extended the match with their best offensive set of the day in game four. Like the first set, the score was tied at 12-all when Arkansas made its first definitive move. With a couple of service aces off the hand of Ashley Vazquez and a kill by Acosta, the visitors carried a 15-12 lead. The Razorbacks increased the lead to five—20-15—to force a second South Carolina timeout. Anderson put away a Santos set to bring her team to set point. The two teams then traded service errors but the one by Thevenin handed Arkansas the set, 25-19.

Arkansas finished the match with a season-high eight service aces, including three from Monica Bollinger, a career best for the freshman from St. Louis. The team also tallied season highs with 65 assists and 84 total points in Friday’s match.

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.

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