FAYETTEVILLE – In front of 1,185 fans, the University of Arkansas volleyball team downed UMKC in four sets (25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-17) Friday evening on day one of the Arkansas Invitational at Barnhill Arena. Sophomore Amanda Anderson totaled a match-high 14 kills on a .500 hitting percentage to pace the Razorback offense. Friday night’s crowd represents the fourth-largest volleyball attendance figure at Barnhill Arena and the largest non-conference total.
Sophomore Cassie Clarke dished out 34 assists to go along with five kills and nine digs. Junior Kelli Stipanovich and freshman libero Brooke Fournier tallied 13 and 12 digs, respectively. Stipanovich also had nine kills with a .471 hitting percentage.
"It was a great night in front of a great crowd," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "I thought we played well against a good UMKC team. We saw some things we need to work on but I’m proud of the way we played hard throughout the match and stayed on top late in the match. I thought we were tight in that second game, but we came out of the locker room with some intensity and it paid off."
In the opening set, Arkansas (1-0) fell behind early after consecutive hitting errors by Alex Fitzmorris but the home team rallied quickly. With the match tied, the Razorbacks went on a four-point run to pull ahead, 10-6, and force UMKC (0-1) to call its first timeout. Out of the break, Arkansas kept the momentum and with freshman Raymariely Santos at the service line, the Hogs built a 19-9 advantage.
The Kangaroos pulled to within seven but got no closer as Arkansas closed out the set, 25-16, on back-to-back kills by Anderson and Kendall Cleveland. The Razorbacks’ offense dominated the opening set, tallying just three attack errors and a .433 hitting percentage.
The visitors won four of the first five points to start the second set. In a similar pattern to the first, Arkansas pulled back even and went ahead, 7-6, with a tandem block by Anderson and Clarke. After several back-and-forth exchanges, Clarke put her team ahead by six, 17-11, with a service ace but UMKC responded to win seven of the next eight points to tie the score. The teams traded points until the Kangaroos took a late two-point lead.
With the second set tied, 23-23, the Kangaroos arrived at set point when a serve by Cleveland went into the net. UMKC won the set, and tied the match, on a ball-handling error Clarke. In a turnaround from set one, the Razorback offense hit .143.
Arkansas came out of the locker room and took a 5-1 lead in the third set. Despite a surge by UMKC to tie the set on a few occasions, the Razorbacks never lost their advantage and went ahead for good, 16-15, on another kill by Anderson. Later in the set, sophomore Jasmine Norton smacked one of her 10 kills to extend the home team’s lead to six, 23-17. With two of the team’s four set points gone, Anderson capped the third with a kill to give the Hogs the set, 25-22.
Dating back to last season, Norton now has a double-digit kill total in 17 consecutive matches and is three putaways from 500 career kills. She would become the 24th player in program history to eclipse the milestone;Stipanovich and 2009 senior Kristin Seaton joined the club last season.
In the early stages of the fourth, and final, set, Arkansas and UMKC found themselves tied, 8-8. Neither team could find an offensive rhythm in the game, but the Razorbacks strung together big plays at key moments. Separated by just one point, Arkansas went on a 6-1 scoring push to grab a 17-11 advantage. A block by Anderson and freshman Hayley Koop gave the team its largest lead of the set, 20-12.
The Kangaroos got no closer than five points the rest of the way and on their first match point, the Razorbacks watched as an errant UMKC attack went long to seal the season-opening victory.
In the day’s first match, Samford came away with a three-set victory over Grambling State. The Razorbacks return to the floor Saturday for a pair of matches. In its first match, Arkansas will take on Grambling State with first serve scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at Barnhill Arena. In the finale of the Arkansas Invitational, the Razorbacks will play Samford at 7 p.m.
Season tickets for the 2010 volleyball season are available at the UA Ticket Office by calling 800-982-HOGS. In addition to live stats and video streams at ArkansasRazorbacks.com, fans can follow Pulliza on Twitter (@RobertPulliza) or join the Razorbacks’ in-game interactive blog for discussion and match updates.