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AUBURN, Ala. University of Arkansas volleyball coach Robert Pulliza guided the Razorbacks to a Southeastern Conference win in the league opener at Auburn Friday.
Arkansas (4-7, 1-0 SEC) battled back to win 25-22, 19-25, 17-25, 25-23, 15-8 over Auburn (5-7, 0-1 SEC). The Razorbacks have Sunday off before returning to league play at home next weekend.
Arkansas got several career or near-career best performances in a balanced win. Senior Caira Dortch stepped up with a career-best four service aces, junior Heather Royal tied her career-best with a match-best 17 kills and senior Christina Lawrence just missed her career high with 16 kills.
“I’m so pumped up right now,” Pulliza exclaimed. “I wish all Razorback fans could be here to share this. We got it done and showed a lot of character tonight. It was exciting and fun to see the team take charge in the fifth game and it was just a great team effort. Heather and Christina were just outstanding down the stretch and were clutch for us.”
Arkansas was solid in the first set and firmly in control of the tempo and scoring but that disappeared quickly in the second, third and most of the fourth frames.
Late in set four, Arkansas tied the score at 17 erasing as much as a three-point Tiger advantage. Back-to-back Tiger net violations extending Arkansas’ lead and prompted an Auburn timeout.
The teams exchanged points before Dortch recorded her fourth service ace giving Arkansas the 21-18 advantage. More than the score changed at that point, however, as the momentum firmly shifted the Razorback side of the net.
Although Auburn scored after the service ace, Arkansas maintained the energy thanks to Royal’s dominating kills through the block. Lawrence was also key with a pair of kills in the final four points of the set lifting Arkansas to the 25-23 victory and forcing set five.
The brief break between sets did nothing to curb Arkansas’ momentum as the Razorbacks blasted out to an 8-2 lead as the teams changed benches at the halfway point. Arkansas sailed to the final set, 15-8, win out-hitting Auburn .474-.105.
“This is a very tough environment,” said Pulliza. “Auburn did a lot of good stuff tonight and was in position to win the match. They out-hit us and we still won the match that’s all character.”
Arkansas hit .212 for the match while the Tigers posted a .250 hitting percentage. Auburn had more kills, assists, digs and blocks but the Razorbacks walked out with the win.
Auburn’s lone senior Jessica Glover led all hitters with a match-best 21 kills and a .421 hitting percentage. She also had an Auburn-best 16 digs and six blocks in the Tiger loss.
Arkansas continues SEC play next weekend hosting No. 11 Florida Friday at 7 p.m. followed by a Sunday afternoon match with South Carolina at 1:30 p.m.
For more information about Arkansas volleyball, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.