FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team ran its winning streak to three matches with a straight-set win over Mississippi State (25-20, 25-20, 25-17) Sunday afternoon at Barnhill Arena. Jasmine Norton and Hayley Koop paced the team with 17 and 10 kills, respectively. Defensively, libero Brooke Fournier had a team-high 11 digs and Charmaine Whitmore tallied a match-high seven total blocks.
"I’m real proud of our kids today," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We had a lot going on this weekend with our match, homecoming and Halloween, but the maturity our team showed throughout the weekend to perform and have pride in being the best they could be, was excellent. That makes three (wins) in a row for us and we’re 3-1 (during the second half of SEC play).
"We knew the first half was going to be tough because we were on the road as a young team and we needed to mature and take care of some things in those matches. At the turn, we’re seeing a more mature team, a hungrier team and a team that’s focused so we’re hoping to keep growing."
Arkansas’ three-match winning streak is its longest since opening the season with a 5-0 record. The Razorbacks’ three-set win is their first of the conference season and the first by the team since a Sept. 4 victory over Akron at the Jayhawk Classic.
Running the show for Arkansas (12-13, 6-8 SEC), Raymariely Santos had 38 assists and five digs. Kelli Stipanovich added eight kills and seven digs against the Bulldogs. Koop’s 10 kills are an SEC-season high for the freshman and she registered a career-best .500 hitting percentage.
In game one, the visitors won three of the first four points but Arkansas rallied to take an 11-7 lead after a hitting error by Mississippi State (11-13, 3-10 SEC). The Razorbacks maintained their lead throughout the first set, leading by as many as six, 20-14, after a tandem block by Koop and Whitmore. A kill by Koop gave Arkansas set point and Amanda Anderson clinched the opener, 25-20, with a putaway out of the middle.
On the heels of her 11-kill effort in the fourth set of Friday’s win, Norton led the way with seven kills in the first set against Mississippi State. The defense posted four total team blocks and held the Bulldogs’ attack to a -.059 hitting percentage in the opener.
After falling behind early in set two, the Razorbacks put together a seven-point run to take an 8-4 lead and force an MSU timeout. Out of the timeout, Mississippi State used a run of its own, a five-point streak to get back in the game. The Bulldogs held the lead through the middle stages of the set but Arkansas regained the lead for good, 20-19, when an Ashley Newsome attack sailed long. A six-point surge, capped by a Norton kill, gave the Razorbacks set point. The sophomore attacker found the floor again to wrap the set, 25-20, and send the teams into the locker rooms.
As it did in games one and two, Mississippi State went out to an early lead in the third set but Arkansas fought back to take a 7-6 lead on a service ace by Fournier. The Razorbacks wouldn’t trail again. With the score tied at 14, the home team used a 6-1 streak to grab the final swing of momentum in the match. Koop ended the push with her final kill of the afternoon. On match point, an attack by MSU’s Caitlin Rance landed out to give Arkansas the win and complete the weekend sweep.
The Razorbacks return to action Friday, Nov. 5, for a Western Division meeting with Ole Miss at Barnhill Arena. First serve of the matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT) on Arkansas’ home court. The match will be broadcast on KXUA 88.3 FM in Northwest Arkansas. For more information, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.