FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team dropped a five-set decision to No. 19 Florida (18-25, 30-32, 25-21, 26-24, 15-9) Sunday afternoon in front of 1,255 fans at Barnhill Arena. The Razorbacks were paced by a match-high 24 kills from Jasmine Norton and a pair of double-double performances from Kelli Stipanovich and Raymariely Santos. Arkansas (18-10, 10-7 SEC) jumped out to a two-set lead but the Gators rallied to close out the match in five.
"We had a battle today," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "Unfortunately, the ball didn’t bounce our way today but sometimes you have to make the ball bounce in your favor. At times, I thought we lost a little bit of the fight to make things happen our way against a very good team. But I’m proud of our team and now we have three big matches left so all we can do is get ready for those. I love this team that we have and I think we gave our fans and the TV audience a good show today."
Norton registered a .327 hitting percentage to go along with her 24 kills and eight digs. Over the last five matches, the Razorback junior is hitting .326 with 4.84 kills per set. Stipanovich totaled 12 kills and 10 digs against Florida to post her team-leading 12th double-double of the season. Santos dished out 46 assists and had 13 digs for her 10th double-double effort of the season. She and Roslandy Acosta each finished the match with eight kills. As a team, the Razorbacks had a .280 hitting percentage.
Defensively, libero Christa Alvarez had a match-high 14 digs to lead a trio of Arkansas players along with at least 10 digs. At the net, Kasey Heckelman led all players with five total blocks while Acosta and Amanda Anderson each had four total blocks. The Razorbacks out-blocked Florida, 10.0-8.0, and the two teams each tallied 60 digs.
Prior to Sunday’s match, Arkansas recognized Stipanovich and Adriana Vazquez during a Senior Day ceremony. Each player was presented with a framed jersey and joined on the court by their family. Vazquez finished the match with seven digs, her second-best total of the season.
The Barnhill Arena crowd was the fifth-largest home attendance figure in program history. Seven of the top-10 home attendance numbers have come over the past two years. Four of those marks have come during an Arkansas-Florida match.
In game one, the Razorbacks trailed 1-2 but pushed ahead and remained on top for the rest of the set. Back-to-back kills from Heckelman and Santos gave the home team a 15-11 at the first media timeout. Later in the set, Anderson found the floor to give Arkansas a five-point lead, 20-15. With a four-point lead, Arkansas won the final three points of the set to clinch the opener, 25-18.
In their longest set of the season, the Razorbacks went out to an early 11-8 lead after Anderson and Santos teamed up for a block. But Florida (21-5, 14-3 SEC) turned its fortunes around with a mid-set surge and led 20-16 after a tandem block. Down the stretch, the teams were locked in back-and-forth play highlighted by Arkansas saving five set points. On the team’s third try to close out the set, Norton tallied her 11th kill of the set to give her team the 32-30 win.
Out of the break, the teams traded points until the Gators broke away for a 13-9 lead after a kill from Kristy Jaeckel. Arkansas pulled to within one when Heckelman and Stipanovich put a block on a Florida attack. The Gators led, 15-14. From that point, the visitors began to ease away and arrived at set point, 24-17. With one final push, the Razorbacks won the next four points but Florida secured the third set, 25-21, with a kill out of the middle.
Arkansas won three of the first four points in set four but the score was tied at 6-all after a kill from Tangerine Wiggs. The remainder of the set featured mini pushes by each team but neither could hold a lead. Game four was tied nine times including four occasions down the stretch. A kill by Stipanovich gave Arkansas its only match point of the day but the Gators responded with a kill from Kelly Murphy. Florida won the last two points of the set to send Sunday’s match to a decisive fifth game.
After an even start between the teams, the visitors made the final move with a four-point run to take an 11-6 lead. Norton had a pair of kills to keep Arkansas close but the Gators arrived at match point after a setting miscue by Santos. The Razorbacks extended the match for one more play but Murphy put the ball down to complete the come-from-behind win for Florida.
Sunday’s match was the regular-season home finale for the Razorbacks who close out the year with three on the road including next weekend’s trip to No. 15 Tennessee and No. 18 Kentucky. For more information about Razorback volleyball and more University of Arkansas athletics, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.