FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball swept past Mississippi State (25-14, 25-16, 25-19) Friday evening in front of 1,184 fans at Barnhill Arena. Kelli Stipanovich had a match-high 14 kills while Jasmine Norton and Raymariely Santos each registered a double-double performance in the win. The Razorbacks posted a .385 hitting percentage, their highest in a conference match since 2007.
Stipanovich notched a .407 hitting percentage to go along with her 14 kills. Norton finished the night with 12 kills and 10 digs while Santos tallied 29 assists and 14 digs. Arkansas (10-4, 2-1 SEC) had five players hit over .400 with at least five kills. Defensively, libero Christa Alvarez paced the team’s effort with a match-high 15 digs. KC Dobbins came in off the bench to add 10 digs of her own.
"The fact that we can come out and play one of our best matches of the year after a loss speaks a lot about our character," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "It’s easy to play well when everything is going good. Obviously, everything was not going good if we lost the last match so the fact that we were able to collect ourselves and play the way we did tonight speaks a lot about what our players can do."
Arkansas jumped out to an early lead in game one. Out of a timeout by Mississippi State (6-6, 1-2 SEC), Roslandy Acosta found the floor to give the Razorbacks a 10-2 advantage. Later in the set, Norton and Janeliss Torres-Lopez combined for a block to give the team its first double-digit lead of the match, 15-5. A kill by Norton put Arkansas ahead, 17-6, and forced the second timeout from Bulldogs’ head coach Jenny Hazelwood.
Mississippi State got as close as eight but the Razorbacks extended their lead back to 11 after a kill by Stipanovich. The team arrived at set point on a kill by Norton, and on the next point, she once again teamed up with Torres-Lopez for a block to give Arkansas the first set, 25-14.
The two teams traded points to open game two. Ahead by one point, the Razorbacks used a four-point surge to gain control of the set and the scoreboard, 12-7. Stipanovich pushed the lead to six with a kill but the Bulldogs pulled back to within four on a kill by Lainey Wyman with Arkansas leading, 17-13.
Consecutive kills by Norton and Stipanovich and a service ace by Amanda Anderson pushed the Razorback lead to eight, 22-14. Torres-Lopez got in on another block, this time teaming with Acosta, to give Arkansas set point. Mississippi State saved the first but on the next play, a Bulldog service error handed the Razorbacks the game, 25-16.
Out of the intermission, the visitors turned the momentum in their favor with a strong start to the third set. Four straight points by the Bulldogs forced Pulliza to use his first timeout of the set. Mississippi State led by as much as six, 12-6, before the Razorbacks steadied for a rally. Trailing by three, Arkansas put together a quick surge to tie the score at 16-all following a service ace by Alvarez.
Norton found the floor with a kill to put the home team ahead, 19-18. It was Arkansas’ first lead of the set. The Razorbacks won the next four points to pad their advantage. The final three points ended in favor of Arkansas, including an ace by Anderson on match point.
"It was a really fun match," Stipanovich said. "I think everyone was gelling and playing together. When we play like that, we’re really unstoppable against anyone, so it was fun to come out tonight and win in straight sets."
Arkansas receives its first bye date of the SEC schedule Sunday and returns to action Sept. 30 to host Kentucky at Barnhill Arena. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.