FAYETTEVILLE – Jasmine Norton tallied 20 kills, including 11 putaways in the fourth set, to lead the University of Arkansas volleyball team to a four-set win (25-20, 13-25, 25-16, 28-26) over Alabama Friday evening at Barnhill Arena. Raymariely Santos turned in a double-double performance, her second of the season, with 49 assists and 10 digs. Amanda Anderson and Charmaine Whitmore added nine and seven kills, respectively, for the Razorbacks. The kill total for Whitmore is a career high.
"I’m really excited about the way we played down the stretch tonight," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We came out and did some very good things in the first game but then relaxed in the second set. I’m proud of the way we came back out of the locker room and played in sets three and four. I also can’t thank our band and fans enough for their support. They really helped us out tonight."
Santos opened the match with a service ace and Arkansas (11-13, 5-8 SEC) won the first four points behind the serve of the freshman setter. The Crimson Tide rallied to tie the score, 10-10, after a hitting error by Janeliss Torres-Lopez. From that point, the Razorbacks reeled off five points in a row and a kill by Norton forced Alabama (9-13, 1-11 SEC) to call its first timeout. The home team maintained its lead, pushing its advantage to as high as seven. On the team’s fourth set point, Torres-Lopez put the ball down to give the Razorbacks the opening game, 25-20.
Norton led the offensive charge in set one with six kills, followed by four from Torres-Lopez. Hayley Koop added three kills for Arkansas in the first game. Defensively, the Razorbacks held Alabama to a .161 hitting percentage in the opener.
The fortunes for the two teams flipped in the second set as the Crimson Tide won nine of the first 10 points of the game to grab control; the visitors’ lead peaked at 14 points. Arkansas survived one set point with a kill by Whitmore but Alabama closed out the game, 25-13, after a kill by Morgan Hendrix. The Crimson Tide posted a .467 hitting percentage in set two.
Out of the locker room, the Razorbacks went out to a 4-1 lead in game three. Kendall Cleveland gave her team a seven-point cushion after a kill and Alabama called a timeout. Arkansas maintained a lead of at least four points throughout the set. Anderson provided the offensive spark with five kills in game three. On the Razorbacks’ second set point, the sophomore middle blocker found the floor to seal the game, 25-16.
In the game-three victory, Arkansas’ defense forced eight Crimson Tide hitting errors and limited the visitors to a -.033 hitting percentage, the second-lowest mark for a Razorback opponent during SEC play. Libero Brooke Fournier picked up five digs in set three; she finished the match with a team-high 11.
Arkansas built a four-point lead early in game four. Despite the early lead for the Razorbacks, the fourth set turned into the tightest game of the match. With the score tied at 14-14, the teams began a back-and-forth battle that featured 11 ties down the stretch.
The Crimson Tide grabbed its only lead of the set, 21-20, after a kill by Alyssa Meuth but Arkansas came right back with a kill from Kelli Stipanovich. The rest of the match was a battle between Norton and Alabama’s Kayla Fitterer as the two exchanged kills from seemingly every spot on the floor. Finally, on Arkansas’ fourth match point, Norton found an open spot down the line to wrap the set, 28-26, and send the Razorback to the victory.
The Razorbacks return to the court Sunday afternoon to take on Mississippi State in the weekend finale. First serve of the Western Division matchup is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. (CT) at Barnhill Arena. Those fans wearing costumes will receive $1 admission to the match. There will also be a costume contest at halftime. In addition to the interactive blog and live stats at ArkansasRazorbacks.com, Sunday’s match will also be broadcast on KXUA 88.3 FM in Northwest Arkansas.