LAWRENCE, Kan. – The University of Arkansas volleyball team rebounded from their first loss of the season with a straight-set victory Saturday over Akron (25-18, 25-18, 25-12) on the final day of the Jayhawk Classic. Jasmine Norton led all players with 14 kills and a career-best .520 hitting percentage.
"I was curious to see how we would respond after (Friday night’s loss to Kansas)," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "I thought we maintained our focus and executed well throughout the entire match. It shows a lot about a team when they can have a quick turnaround after a loss and put it together for the next match, especially with a three-set win."
Kendall Cleveland and Alex Fitzmorris added eight and seven kills, respectively. Arkansas (6-1) posted a .419 hitting percentage against the Zips, the eighth-best performance in program history. Cassie Clarke directed the Hogs’ offensive display with 33 assists. This is the second time this season the team has cracked the all-time hitting percentage list; Arkansas hit .429 against Grambling State in the second match of the season.
Defensively, the Razorbacks totaled 8.5 team blocks against Akron (3-3), led by five total swats by Charmaine Whitmore. The freshman middle blocker made her first career start Saturday against the Zips, adding six kills to her blocking numbers. Clarke and Fitzmorris both tallied three blocks in the win.
In the opening set, Arkansas jumped out to a 7-2 lead and never relinquished its advantage. Akron pulled to within two points on three occasions but the Razorbacks kept up the pressure and eventually grabbed a seven-point lead after a triple block by Cleveland, Whitmore and Kelli Stipanovich gave the team set point, 24-17. The Zips saved one of those points but Cleveland put down a kill to seal the game.
Norton and Whitmore combined for nine kills in the second set with just one error between the two Razorbacks. Leading by two early in the game, Arkansas reeled off five consecutive points to push its advantage to 13-6. With her team a couple points away from a two-set lead, Norton delivered back-to-back kills to end the game, 25-18.
Arkansas’ offensive efficiency reached a peak in the third set, posting a .519 hitting percentage. Clarke turned to her middle blockers to close out the match and Fitzmorris came away with five kills on seven swings in the game. Another 5-0 run gave the Razorbacks a 10-point lead, 19-9, their largest lead of the match up to that point. Arkansas closed out the Zips by winning six of the next nine points. On match point, Cleveland found the floor to send the team to its sixth win of the season.
Norton and Cassie Clarke were named to the all-tournament team as the Razorbacks finished the weekend with a 2-1 record with wins over Chattanooga and Akron. The team returns to Fayetteville for a Tuesday evening meeting with Oklahoma. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Barnhill Arena. It will be the fourth meeting between the two programs, and the first since the 2006 season.