FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team dropped its weekend finale to Kentucky in four sets (21-25, 15-25, 25-21, 17-25) Sunday afternoon at Barnhill Arena. Offensively, the Razorbacks were paced by Jasmine Norton and Kelli Stipanovich with 18 and 10 kills, respectively. The loss to the Wildcats is the third straight setback for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas (9-10, 3-5 SEC) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in game one with the help of kills by Hayley Koop and Janeliss Torre-Lopez. The visitors rallied to tie the score and eventual take the lead, 9-7, to force an Arkansas timeout. The middle stages of the set went back and forth until Stipanovich found the floor to give the Razorbacks a two-point lead, 16-14. Kentucky (9-9, 3-5 SEC) responded to win the next four points to take control of the set. On the team’s second set point, Kentucky clinched the game with a service error by Norton.
Riding the momentum of their first-set win, the Wildcats never trailed in game two. The visitors used a five-point spurt to take a nine-point advantage, capped by a service ace by Becky Pavan. Kentucky led by as many as 10 points during the set and on its second set point, Pavan put the ball away to send the team to into the locker rooms at halftime.
The Razorbacks used the break to re-energize and came out to grab a 4-1 lead in the third set. A tandem block by Raymariely Santos and Charmaine Whitmore pushed the team’s lead to five and forced an early timeout by Kentucky. The freshman duo teamed up again on a block of UK’s Blaire Hiler to give Arkansas its largest lead of the game, 16-9. The Wildcats closed their deficit to three on four occasions but on set point for the Razorbacks, Lauren Rapp served a ball into the net to hand the game to Arkansas.
The third-set performance was spurred on by four total team blocks, three involving Santos. The offense matched the effort with a .438 hitting percentage, its highest of any set during the match. Norton led the way with eight kills in the set and the Razorbacks committed just three hitting errors on its way to the game-three win.
Kentucky began the fourth set with an 8-2 run to regain control of play. Trailing by as much as six early in the set, Arkansas pulled to within three on a kill by Norton that ended an extended rally between the teams. The Wildcats won the next four points, however, to pad its lead again. On match point, Pavan sealed the victory with her 19th kill of the day.
Torres-Lopez and Koop finished the match seven and six kills, respectively. The match marked the fourth consecutive start for Koop. Santos and Torres-Lopez both tallied five total blocks. In off the bench in the second set, Santos dished out 27 assists against Kentucky. Brooke Fournier had a team-high eight digs.
The Razorbacks return to action Wednesday for a midweek contest against No. 15 LSU in Baton Rouge, La. First serve of the Western Division matchup is scheduled for an 8 p.m. (CT) start at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The match will also be televised by ESPNU with Geeter McGee and Kelli Tennant handling the commentary duties. For more information, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.