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Razorbacks sweep Alabama in weekend finale

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Razorbacks sweep Alabama in weekend finale

FAYETTEVILLE – Three Razorbacks tallied double-digits kills as the University of Arkansas volleyball team knocked Alabama in straight sets (25-17, 25-19, 25-19) Sunday afternoon at Barnhill Arena. Jasmine Norton paced the team with a match-high 11 kills while Amanda Anderson and Kelli Stipanovich each totaled 10 kills. Defensively, Anderson had a career-high eight total blocks and libero Christa Alvarez registered a match-best 17 digs.

Stipanovich collected her team-leading 10th double-double performance, adding 12 digs to her kill total. The Razorback offense, directed by 33 assists from Raymariely Santos, posted a .313 hitting percentage. Sunday’s match marked the fifth time Arkansas has hit .300 or higher in a match this season, and second time during SEC play.

For the first time since 2006, the Razorbacks swept a Southeastern Conference weekend with a pair of 3-0 wins. Arkansas beat Ole Miss Friday in straight sets.

"I thought today’s match was our best Sunday effort of the year," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "It showed in the numbers and it showed in the outcome. We’ve been talking about putting together back-to-back matches in the SEC. If you want to be the best in this conference, you have to put back-to-back matches together and I thought we played our best volleyball of the weekend today so I’m proud of our players for that."

After an even start between the two teams, Arkansas (14-8, 6-5 SEC) opened a 13-9 advantage behind consecutive blocks from Stipanovich. She teamed with Anderson on the first and Kasey Heckelman on the second. Out of a timeout, Alabama (10-13, 3-9 SEC) won the next three points to pull to within one after a tandem block by Leigh Moyer and Shelbi Goode.

However, the Razorbacks maintained their lead and pushed their advantage to 20-14 after back-to-back attack errors by the Crimson Tide. With consecutive kills by Anderson and Norton, Arkansas arrived at set point. On the team’s third chance to close out the opening game, Anderson pounded her third kill of the day to close out the set in favor of the Razorbacks, 25-17.

"I don’t want a 10-kill match to be a highlight, it should be happening every time," Anderson said. "That would make things easier for Kelli and Jasmine on the outsides. I’ve just been working hard in practice with (Raymariely). We’re getting pretty good at going at it every time and watching it more."

The home team jumped out to the early 4-0 lead in the second set. The Razorbacks never trailed in the set, holding at least a two-point advantage throughout the game. Arkansas opened a 14-7 lead, its largest of the set, after a pair of tandem blocks involving Anderson. Later in the set, the Crimson Tide cut its deficit to two after an attack error by Norton.

But the Razorbacks responded to regain control of play and led 21-17 after kills from Norton and Santos. Arkansas won the last four points of the set to take a 2-0 match lead. Heckelman closed out the game with back-to-back service aces and the Razorbacks won the set, 25-19.

Playing with the lead, Arkansas closed out the Crimson Tide in the third set. The teams traded points to start the game but the Razorbacks turned a one-point advantage into a 10-6 lead after a kill from Anderson. Another put away from the junior middle blocker pushed the Arkansas lead to five. Out of an Alabama timeout, Norton extended her team’s lead to seven, 20-13.

Kayla Fitterer had three kills for the visitors down the stretch but the Razorbacks’ lead was never in question. Roslandy Acosta gave Arkansas match point with a kill. After Alabama saved one match point, Acosta found the floor for the final kill of the match.

"We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing," Santos said. "We’ve been preparing ourselves really well. We just have to keep going at it and working hard in practice Monday and Tuesday because Wednesday will be here soon."

The Razorbacks return to the court Wednesday night for a midweek contest against LSU. First serve of the Western Division matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT) at Barnhill Arena. The match will be televised by ESPNU with Adam Amin and Elizabeth Moreau handling the commentary duties. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.

Download: AR1023.pdf



Sports Category : Volleyball (W)