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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Senior Kristin Seaton and sophomore Phoebe Bautista earned all-tournament team honors leading the University of Arkansas volleyball team to a runner-up finish at the Virginia Tech Invitational in Blacksburg, Va., Saturday.
The Razorbacks (4-3) opened the day with a three-set win over East Carolina but fell in the nightcap to host Virginia Tech (6-0) in five sets, 25-20, 23-25, 20-25, 25-19, 13-15.
"We did some nice things this weekend," said Arkansas head coach Robert Pulliza, "but we still have some things to work on. We have to get home and regroup before we head to Tulsa Tuesday."
Seaton hit .550 for the weekend with 14 kills in the final match. Bautista led the Razorbacks with 41 digs.
The tournament title came down to a five-set thriller with the host in the final match of the weekend. Arkansas won the first set, dropped the next two and rallied to win the fourth frame forcing a deciding fifth set.
It was neck-and-neck through the first five points and Virginia Tech took the 8-5 lead as the teams changed benches.
Arkansas put up three huge blocks tying the contest at eight and forcing a Hokie timeout. The hosts came out of the break with three quick points as the Razorbacks burned a timeout.
The back-and-forth battle continued as Arkansas tied the set at 12 but a deep kill from Virginia Tech followed by a Razorback hitting error signaled the end for Arkansas.
Arkansas was out-hit for the first time all weekend, .229-.194 against Tech. Freshman Jasmine Norton paced all hitters with 20 kills followed by 14 from Seaton. Sophomore Kelli Stipanovich added 11 kills and freshman Amanda Anderson had 10 kills and hit .409 in five sets.
The first set was a "get-to-know-ya" affair with neither team commanding control of the action or pace. The teams traded points for much of the frame with no greater than a three-point advantage for either side.
Arkansas got its first good grip on the momentum with a 20-16 lead after an ace from Katelyn McCarthy. The Razorbacks would extend the lead to five before winning by that margin, 25-20.
Arkansas out-hit the Hokies, .212-.161, with four kills each from Anderson and Seaton in the first set. The frame featured five tied scores and three lead changes in the even match-up.
The Razorbacks carried the energy into the second set taking a two-point, 5-3, lead but Tech stormed back and overtook Arkansas. Pulliza burned both timeouts but his team trailed 8-14 behind the tough jump serve of Justine Record.
Arkansas’ defense struggled to break the serve but Pulliza’s second timeout did the trick ending a 6-0 run by the Hokies. The Razorbacks next found themselves down six, 10-16, but managed a run behind the serving of Seaton. Arkansas went on a 5-0 sprint, closing within one but it would be as close as the Razorbacks would come.
Arkansas held off two set points but dropped the frame, 23-25, evening the match at one set apiece.
The Razorbacks’ offense never found solid footing in the third set as Arkansas trailed from the opening plays of the frame. Virginia Tech orchestrated a couple of mini-runs and, when paired with the Razorbacks’ unforced errors, made for an uphill battle for Arkansas.
Tech took a 2-1 lead after out-hitting Arkansas .206-.067 in the third set. Arkansas committed eight hitting errors with just 10 kills limiting their chances for a comeback.
Arkansas was re-energized to start the fourth, must-win set exploding out to a quick 6-1 lead. Tech would scratch its way back into the match but was never able to reclaim a lead. Arkansas’ attacks became more hard-hitting and the Razorbacks were winning the long rallies – something that eluded them in the third set.
Tech burned its second and final timeout trailing 13-18 and put three quick points together out of the break prompting Pulliza to take his first break to regroup.
The strategy worked and Arkansas hung on to win the set, 25-20, and force set five. Arkansas hit a match-best .382 for the fourth set with 16 kills and limiting themselves to just three hitting errors. Virginia Tech was solid with a .270 effort but couldn’t match the inspired play of Seaton, Norton and Stipanovich who took over the set for the win.
Norton led all hitters with 11 kills in the first match of the day leading the Razorbacks to a three-set win over East Carolina in the morning match.
The Razorbacks picked up a 27-25, 25-15, 25-17 win over the Pirates (1-4). Norton had 11 kills and Stipanovich added nine. Anderson tallied eight kills and hit .571 with no errors matched by freshman Janeliss Torres-Lopez with six kills and no errors hitting 1.000.
Arkansas out-hit the Pirates, .294-.123, and was better in nearly every statistical category.
The match-up between Arkansas and ECU was a good one. Both teams are physical and have good size but the Razorbacks had the advantage defensively with athletic digs from Bautista as well as several other players.
Bautista finished the match with a contest-high 15 digs while McCarthy added seven for Arkansas.
The first set was close with Arkansas needing extra time to win it. Anderson gave Arkansas a 25-24 lead with a kill on an ECU overpass.
The Pirates got a break on an Arkansas service error that tied the frame at 25. But ECU gave the ball right back with a service error of their own. Arkansas scored the final point on a block from Torres-Lopez and senior setter Lindsay Scanlan.
The second set was close through the first couple of points but a tip from Stipanovich and a board-splitting kill from Norton shut down the Pirates. Arkansas bolted out to a big lead and ECU was unable to recover dropping the next two sets.
The Razorbacks travel to Tulsa Tuesday for mid-week action before returning home hosting the Arkansas Invitational Friday and Saturday. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.