FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team dropped a five-set decision (22-25, 25-19, 25-15, 21-25, 15-10) to Oklahoma Tuesday evening in front of 1,272 fans at Barnhill Arena. Kelli Stipanovich led the Razorbacks with a season-high 18 kills and .630 hitting percentage and Cassie Clarke posted her first double-double of the season with 43 assists and a team-high 11 digs. The attendance figure during Tuesday’s match is the second-largest total in program history.
"I thought there were some great individual performances tonight but I’m disappointed in our effort," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We didn’t work hard enough to get a win tonight against a team like Oklahoma. That’s what I’m disappointed in. I thought against a team like Oklahoma at home, we’d get excited to play a match like this. We came out and took the first set but then got casual for two sets. We sparked back up and almost closed it out in the end, but against teams like this, you can’t give things away."
After forcing a decisive set with a win in game four, Arkansas (6-2) fell behind early in the fifth but responded to tie the score, 6-6, in the race to 15 points. Oklahoma (5-3) won three points in a row to set itself up for the victory. The Razorbacks got as close as two but on match point, the visitor sealed the victory with a kill by Suzy Boulavsky, who finished the night with a match-high 22 kills.
In the opening set, the Razorbacks took an early 6-3 advantage after a kill by Stipanovich. Oklahoma responded with a push to take the lead but the home team countered with a four-point run to grab an 11-8 lead. Arkansas held on to the momentum despite the Sooners pulling even on three occasions.
With the score knotted at 18, the Razorbacks reeled off three quick points, capped by a service ace by Brooke Fournier, to take the lead for good. On set point, Kendall Cleveland ripped a serve down the line for an ace to give Arkansas the first-set win, 25-22. Stipanovich and Jasmine Norton paced the offense with four kills each in game one
The Sooners cranked up their offensive output in the second to send the teams into the locker room tied at one set apiece. Leading by one early in the game, the visitors pushed its lead to five, 13-8, with the help of Arkansas hitting errors. Boulavsky gave Oklahoma a nine-point lead, its largest of the set, with a kill and her team led, 23-14.
Despite a late 4-0 surge by Arkansas, the Sooners closed out the set, 25-19, on another putaway by Boulavsky. She led all players with 10 kills at the break. During that second game, Oklahoma posted a .387 hitting percentage and held the Razorbacks to a .182 mark. Through the first two games, Stipanovich led Arkansas with eight kills.
The early stages of the third set went back and forth with Fournier tying the score, 7-7, with an ace. However, the Sooners replied with four consecutive points to regain control. The remainder of the set followed the pattern of the previous game with Oklahoma stretching its lead. An attack error by Cleveland gave OU a handful of set points and the Sooners took the game, 25-15.
With their backs against the wall, the Razorbacks forced the decisive fifth set with a strong offensive push in game four. Seeing her first extended playing time of the match, Amanda Anderson tallied five kills on eight swings. After the Sooners cut a once-four-point deficit to one, Arkansas called a timeout and won the next two points out of the break to lead, 20-17. Stipanovich gave the Hogs set point and closed out the game-four victory, 25-21, with another putaway.
In spite of the loss, Arkansas continued to show progress at the net. The Razorbacks outblocked OU, 10.0-7.0, behind five total blocks by Charmaine Whitmore. Stipanovich followed with four blocks and Clarke added three swats. It was Arkansas’ third match of the season with a double-digit block total.
The non-conference finale takes the Razorbacks on the road for the Middle Tennessee Invitational set for play Sept. 10-11 at Memorial Gymnasium in Murfreesboro, Tenn. In addition to Arkansas, the tournament field will include the teams from Alabama-Birmingham, Albany and host Middle Tennessee.