FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team capped its 2013 season with a second-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The selection marked the program’s first back-to-back NCAA appearances since the 2005 and 2006 seasons. With a roster mix that featured six seniors and seven newcomers, the Razorbacks finished the season with a 16-14 overall record and a handful of individual honors including a pair of All-America accolades.
For the second-consecutive season, Arkansas had two AVCA All-America Honorable Mention performers. Senior Raymariely Santos and junior Meredith Hays became the seventh and eighth All-Americans in program history. They are the third set of Razorback teammates to earn All-America honors in the same season. With the most recent additions, four of the eight All-Americans in program history have come under head coach Robert Pulliza.
Hays opened the team’s postseason awards by earning a spot on the 2013 All-SEC Team, becoming the 32nd all-conference player in program history. The Hereford, Texas, native finished the regular season ranked fourth in the SEC with 4.02 kills per set and third in the conference with 4.56 points per set. Conference recognition also went to senior Clarissa Pavey who was named to the 2013 SEC Community Service Team.
The next level of postseason accolades went to Hays, Santos and senior libero Emily Helm who were all recognized as AVCA All-South Region performers. Hays and Santos were First-Team honorees while Helm was an Honorable Mention pick.
Arkansas’ selection to the NCAA Tournament was aided by the ninth-toughest schedule in the country. During the 2013 season, fifteen of the Razorbacks’ 30 matches were against teams that played in the NCAA Tournament. The team’s non-conference schedule featured tournament wins at the season-opening Arkansas Invitational and the Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla.
In their final seasons as Razorbacks, Helm and Santos etched their names into the Arkansas records book. Helm tallied 29 digs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to eclipse the 1,000-dig mark and finish her career tied with former standout Denise Baez for eighth place on the program’s all-time list. Helm totaled 1,014 digs in her two-year career at Arkansas and is the ninth player in program history to reach the 1,000-dig milestone.
Early in the season, Santos made history when she tallied 13 kills, 26 assists and 11 digs in a four-set win at Tulsa to become just the fourth player in program history to have a triple-double. The Ponce, Puerto Rico, native finished her Razorback career ranked second in assists (3,661), 12th in digs (933) and 18th in service aces (62). Santos joins former standout Tina Rico as the only setters in program history with more than 3,500 career assists.
Santos and fellow senior setter Ashley Vazquez directed Arkansas to four matches with a .300 or higher hitting percentage including a .434 performance in a home sweep of Ole Miss. The team’s figure against the Rebels represents the fourth-best offensive performance in program history. The Razorbacks’ .434 effort is their highest since 2006.
In a sign of the Razorbacks’ future, the 2013 newcomers-Hays, Barbara Dapic, Danielle Harbin, Breana Jones, Ana Sofia Jusino, Megan Mollett and Savannah Voelzke-accounted for 63 percent of the team’s offense (total kills). Additionally, Arkansas is set to return 73 percent of its offensive output with the inclusion of sophomores Monica Bollinger, Liz Fortado and Summer Morgan.
On its Senior Day, Arkansas recognized the respective careers of Helm, Pavey, Santos, Vazquez, Hayley Koop and Avery Lewis. The Razorbacks sent their seniors out with a straight-set win over Mississippi State in the final home match of the season.
The Razorbacks continued its growth of national exposure with six matches that were televised and/or broadcast on ESPN3.com. Two of those matches were played at Barnhill Arena including an ESPNU Wednesday Night Volleyball matchup against Missouri (Oct. 2). That match drew 1,672 fans for the second-highest home attendance in program history. The fans posted another top-10 attendance figure of 1,219 in Arkansas’ match against No. 2 Florida (Oct. 18).
Arkansas continued its recent trend of seeing its graduating seniors extend their volleyball careers at the professional level. Santos and Vazquez became the sixth and seventh Razorbacks over the past two years to sign with a professional league. Both are set to join teams in the Puerto Rico Superior League. After a year in Puerto Rico, former Arkansas standouts Roslandy Acosta and Jasmine Norton have recently signed to continue their professional careers in Europe.
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