FAYETTEVILLE – Three players had double-digit kills to lead the University of Arkansas volleyball team to a four-set win over Ole Miss (25-23, 19-25, 25-20, 25-20) Friday evening at Barnhill Arena. With the victory, the Razorbacks push their win streak to four matches and even their overall record. In a career-best performance, Janeliss Torres-Lopez pounded 15 kills in the middle with a .429 hitting percentage.
Jasmine Norton had a team-high 17 kills and Kelli Stipanovich added 14 kills for the Razorbacks. Norton completed a double-double effort with 14 digs while Stipanovich posted a .367 hitting percentage against the Rebels. Raymariely Santos, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, notched another double-double with 34 assists and a career-high 22 digs. Defensively, the Razorbacks out-dug Ole Miss, 78-66, and finished the match with eight total team blocks. Libero Brooke Fournier added 16 digs.
"Offensively, we had balance all night," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We knew our middles had to be huge for us and set the tone for us to be successful. They did a good job and everything else just opened up. But the stat I’m looking at is the 78 digs. Everyone is going to look at the offense but I’m really proud of our kids for what they did defensively."
Ahead by one late in the first set, Arkansas (13-13, 7-8 SEC) used a three-point surge to take control. A tandem block by Torres-Lopez and Hayley Koop gave the Razorbacks a 21-17 lead and forced Ole Miss (17-7, 11-4 SEC) to call its second timeout. The Rebels pulled to within one with a push of their own but the home team arrived at set point, 24-21, after an Ole Miss attack error. On the team’s third set point, Norton found the floor to wrap up the game, 25-23.
The Razorbacks’ offense dominated the first set with a .382 hitting percentage, paced by Torres-Lopez and Stipanovich. The pair combined for 11 kills in the opener, committing just one error between them.
Ole Miss turned the tide in the second game to even the match going into intermission. The Rebels won six of the first eight points in the second set and led by as many as nine points, 15-6. Arkansas put together a string of points to pull to within two after a kill by Stipanovich but the Rebels responded with a 6-2 run to take game two, 25-19.
Out of the locker room, the Razorbacks used an early four-point spurt to take a 10-6 lead. Their lead grew to seven after a hitting miscue by Ole Miss. However, the momentum switched to the other side of the net when the Rebels reeled off seven points in a row to tie the score at 16-16. Torres-Lopez put the ball down on the next play to break the streak and the team regained control. Norton capped a three-point run to end the set, 25-20, and put the Razorbacks one game away from the win.
The teams battled to a 6-6 tie to start the fourth set but Arkansas won the next six points behind the serve of Stipanovich to push away from its opponent. A kill by Stipanovich pushed the Razorbacks lead to eight, the largest of the set. The team had a handful of match points after a Norton kill. On the third try, Cassie Clarke flicked a set back to Santos who put the ball away to end the set, 25-20, and clinch the match.
"I feel very good about our win today," Pulliza said. "I feel very good about the energy we played with and we’ve won four in a row now but we still have a ways to go. We just have to keep working."
With their second open date of the conference season scheduled for Sunday, the Razorbacks return to action Nov. 12 with a road match against Kentucky. First serve of the match is set for 6 p.m. (CT) at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. In the first meeting between the two teams this season, the Wildcats came away with a four-set win in Fayetteville. For more information, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.