ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Arkansas volleyball team rallied past Georgia in four sets (18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-22) Sunday afternoon at the Ramsey Center on the UGA campus. Jasmine Norton had a match-high 21 kills and Kendall Cleveland added 10 kills as the Razorbacks hit .311 as a team. Defensively, Charmaine Whitmore emerged in the middle with a career-high nine total blocks.
"Today was such a group performance," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "Looking across the box score at the numbers, our collective effort was really good. Jasmine Norton put together a really mature match after a tough outing Friday (against Auburn). When our collective effort is there, this is the kind of volleyball we can play."
In game one, Georgia (11-12, 3-9 SEC) jumped out to a 6-2 lead after a kill by Valentina Gonzalez. The Bulldogs’ middle blockers controlled set one with a combined 10 kills, six of those from Gonzalez. The largest lead of the set for UGA was nine points. A kill by Cleveland saved the first point for UGA but on the second shot, Hayley Koop served into the net to give the Bulldogs the game.
Set two was a much tighter battle with the Razorbacks grabbing their first lead of the match, 5-4, on a tandem block by Whitmore and Raymariely Santos. Arkansas (10-13, 4-8 SEC) later pushed its lead to four after a service ace by libero Brooke Fournier. After a mini-push by the Bulldogs, the back-and-forth action between the two teams featured eight ties.
With the outcome of game two up in the air, Norton turned on the jets for her and had a hand in the final three points of the set for the Razorbacks, including a tandem block with Whitmore and two kills. On the team’s second set point, Norton found the floor crosscourt to send the teams into the locker rooms tied at one set apiece. Arkansas committed just two hitting errors and posted a .375 hitting percentage in its game-two win.
Both teams battled for control of the action in the early stages of set three. Out of a timeout called by Georgia, the Razorbacks won two points in a row to take a five-point lead, 14-9, after a UGA hitting miscue. Arkansas maintained its level of play and led by six, 22-16, after Santos and Whitmore combined to a block of Gonzalez. Despite a late push by the Bulldogs to get themselves back into the set, the Razorbacks put away with the game victory with back-to-back kills by Norton.
Set four was a carbon copy of the two previous games with neither team able to distance itself from the other. Arkansas finally grabbed a three-point lead, 16-13, after a mistimed connection between Kathleen Gates and Simone May. Whitmore made her presence felt in the middle with a solo stuff of Ann Dylla to give the Razorbacks a late five-point advantage. A kill for Norton gave the team four match points and on the third opportunity, the sophomore attacker notched her final putaway of the day for the Razorback win.
"What a match for Brooke Fournier," Pulliza said. "As a freshman, she’s done a great job for us and put in a lot of work. I’m also proud of Adriana Vazquez. She did a great job of coming in and playing in the back row which allowed Jasmine to free up a little and get into things offensively."
Against the Bulldogs, Norton and Cleveland put up hitting percentages of .444 and .421, respectively. Kelli Stipanovich was third on the team with nine kills and a .364 hitting percentage. Fournier finished the match with a team-high nine digs. Santos was right behind with seven digs and directed the offense with 37 assists.
Arkansas’ win against Georgia snaps the team’s six-match skid. With a month remaining in the 2010 regular season, the Razorbacks play six of its final eight matches on their home court at Barnhill Arena. Next up, Arkansas returns to Fayetteville to host Alabama and Mississippi State during homecoming weekend. For more information, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.