FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team returns to Fayetteville for a pair of matches this weekend beginning with Friday evening’s meeting with Alabama. First serve of the Southeastern Conference matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Barnhill Arena. The Razorbacks have played eight of their last 10 matches on the road but will close out the regular season with six of eight on their home court.
"It’s a relief to know we won’t be packing to get on the road again this weekend," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "I know the players are excited to be playing at home and so is our coaching staff. We’re looking forward to having more training days in the gym. We picked up some road wins on the front end (of the SEC season) and a schedule like that can punish you but it can also reward you later on if you’ve taken care of business in the beginning. Now we hope to close it out strong down the stretch."
Jasmine Norton and Kelli Stipanovich continue to pace the Razorback offense with 3.86 and 2.36 kills per set, respectively. Norton is second in the conference with her kill production and is sixth in the SEC with 0.30 service aces per set. In a show of offensive balance in its last outing, Arkansas’ three primary attackers-Norton, Stipanovich and Kendall Cleveland-all posted at least nine kills coupled with a hitting percentage over .350.
Defensively, Charmaine Whitmore is riding a high on the heels of a career-high nine blocks against Georgia in the Razorbacks’ last match. Also in the middle, Janeliss Torres-Lopez is fourth in the SEC with 1.15 blocks per set. She also tallied a career-best three service aces against the Bulldogs. Behind the block, libero Brooke Fournier leads the team with 2.99 digs per set.
Alabama enters the weekend with a 9-12 overall record and a 1-10 mark in the SEC. The Crimson Tide has dropped four in a row, including a five-set loss to Ole Miss in their last outing. In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Arkansas came away with a four-set victory in Tuscaloosa. The Razorbacks lead the all-time series, 28-7. Alabama’s lone SEC win this season was an Oct. 10 home sweep of South Carolina.
Offensively, the Crimson Tide are led by Kayla Fitterer (3.51 k/s) and Alyssa Meuth (3.36 k/s), good for sixth and seventh in the conference, respectively. Fitterer is the SEC’s top server with 0.36 service aces per set. Libero Kelsey Anderson is third in the league with 4.71 digs per set and Alabama, as a team, is third in the SEC with 15.23 digs per set.
"Alabama is a team that has great pin players in Kayla Fitterer and Alyssa Meuth," Pulliza said. "Meuth was named to the All-SEC preseason team and Fitterer is having a great season, too. Those are the two that stand out right away but on any given day, they have athletes that can get going so we’re going to have to be able to defend well. They run a 6-2 (offense) so they have three attackers at all times in the front row and they have some physicality. We have to be mature at the net."
The first 500 fans in attendance for Friday’s match against Alabama will receive a free Razorback Volleyball t-shirt courtesy of Coca-Cola. To follow the weekend’s action, a live stream, interactive blog and live stats will be available at ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Arkansas will close out the weekend Sunday with an afternoon match against Mississippi State.
Download: Notes 13_Alabama, Miss State.pdf