MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – In the finale of the Middle Tennessee Invitational, the University of Arkansas volleyball team lost in five sets to Alabama-Birmingham (24-26, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19, 17-15) Saturday evening at Memorial Gym in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Razorbacks fall to 6-5 overall, while UAB improves to 3-6; Arkansas is now 2-2 in five-set matches this season.
Despite the loss, several Razorbacks turned in stellar performances that helped fuel the team’s attack, offensively and defensively. Jasmine Norton matched her career high with 29 kills (29-5-69, .348) and set a new career best with 22 digs, the second 20-20 performance of her career. At the net, Janeliss Torres-Lopez posted a career-high 11.0 total blocks, increasing her previous best by four. Behind the block, libero Brooke Fournier collected a career-best 26 digs.
Directing the offense, Cassie Clarke had a season-high 52 assists. The sophomore setter also tied her career best with 12 digs to complete her second double-double effort of the year. Hayley Koop turned in nine kills and Kendall Cleveland added eight putaways for the Razorbacks. Collectively, Arkansas had a season-high 14.0 total team blocks.
In the fifth set, the teams traded points without gaining much of a lead but back-to-back kills by the Blazers’ Sam Serley and Jordan McDonald gave UAB a three-point advantage, 10-7, and forced head coach Robert Pulliza to call his first timeout of the game. The Blazers maintained their lead and eventually arrived at match point, 14-12, on a kill by Michelle Uzoh.
The Razorbacks fought off the first with a tandem block by Amanda Anderson and Kelli Stipanovich and then tied the score when Norton found the floor for her final kill of the match. Another putaway by Serley gave UAB another match point but Anderson turned up with a kill to even the score one more time. The Blazers, however, sealed the victory with consecutive kills by Serley.
She led UAB with 23 kills while Uzoh and McDonald totaled 19 and 17 kills, respectively. The Blazers’ libero Heather Thomas notched a match-high 30 digs. Four UAB players, including Thomas, finished the match with at least 10 digs.
Arkansas and UAB split the first four sets with the Razorbacks taking games one and three and the Blazers winning the second and fourth sets. In games two and four, Arkansas’ offense stuttered with hitting percentages of .190 and .162, respectively. In the decisive game, both teams fired on all cylinders with Arkansas attacking at a .344 mark and UAB posting a .382 figure.
The Razorbacks head back to Fayetteville with a week to prepare for the start of Southeastern Conference play. Arkansas opens league action Sept. 17 with a home match against Georgia. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Barnhill Arena. The Razorbacks will also host Auburn during the conference-opening weekend. For more information and continued updates, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.