LEXINGTON, Ky. – Jasmine Norton tied her season high with a 27-kill performance Sunday afternoon in a five-set loss at No. 16 Kentucky (18-25, 26-28, 25-23, 25-21, 15-13). Norton had 14 digs to go along with her offensive output. In the setback, Raymariely Santos dished out a career-high 61 assists and tied her season high with 16 digs. Kasey Heckelman led Arkansas’ charge at the net with a match-high nine total blocks.
In the decisive fifth set, Kentucky (26-4, 17-2 SEC) jumped out to an early 4-0 lead but the Razorbacks battled back to even the score at 5-all after consecutive attack errors from the home team. In a set that saw back-and-forth action, the score was tied nine times in the finale. Janeliss Torres-Lopez put Arkansas (18-12, 10-9 SEC) ahead for the first time in the fifth set with a kill out of the middle. However, the Wildcats completed the comeback with three straight points to end the set, 15-13, and win the match.
In the opening set, the team exchanged points until Kentucky went on a mini-run to take an 11-8 lead after kill from Lauren O’Conner. The Razorbacks responded with a five-point surge, capped by a pair of blocks involving Amanda Anderson, to take a 13-11 advantage. Arkansas pushed its lead to six, 20-14, after a kill from Norton. A kill by Roslandy Acosta brought the Razorbacks to set point and during the next rally, a UK attack went wild to hand Arkansas the first set, 25-18.
The Razorbacks carried over the momentum and won the first three points of game two. However, Kentucky put together a seven-point push to go out in front behind the service of Whitney Billings. Arkansas even the score at 9-all after a kill from Kelli Stipanovich. The two teams exchanged three-point leads through the middle stages of the set.
The home team took a 23-21 lead with a three-point run. Looking to extend the set, the Razorback blocking combo of Norton and Heckelman teamed up for consecutive swats to pull even and then give Arkansas its first of four set points. The Razorbacks stayed out front and never allowed Kentucky to get to set point. On the team’s fourth chance to close out the set, Stipanovich found the floor to clinch the game, 28-26, and give Arkansas the two-set match lead.
Out of the intermission, the teams traded points with neither team going up by more than two until late in the set when Arkansas took a 19-16 advantage on a shot down the line by Acosta. The Wildcats rallied to win the next five points and take a 21-19 lead after a second-ball attack from setter Christine Hartmann. A kill by Stipanovich and a UK attack error brought the score back to even at 22-all. But Kentucky won three of the final four points to win the set, 25-23, and force a game four.
The Wildcats continued to rack up the points and went out to an early 3-1 lead in the fourth set. From a 10-10 tie later in the set, Kentucky reeled off four points in a row to take a 14-10 advantage. The Razorbacks’ deficit reached five after a combo block from O’Conner and Becky Pavan. Facing their first set point, the Razorbacks got a kill from Norton to extend play. On the next play, however, Gretchen Giesler found the floor for the Wildcats to clinch the set, 25-21, and send the match to a fifth set.
The Razorbacks close out their regular season Nov. 26 at LSU in a Southeastern Western Division matchup. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.