FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team closed out its weekend Sunday afternoon with a three-set loss to No. 23 Tennessee (25-19, 25-16, 25-19) at Barnhill Arena. Kelli Stipanovich paced the Razorbacks’ offense with seven kills and, defensively, Raymariely Santos had a team-high nine digs to go along with four kills.
"Tennessee is a very good team," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We were not very good today, and against a good team like that, you have to be consistent. We did some good things early on in each set but couldn’t maintain. Our effort has to be better."
The teams played even and traded points through the first half of the opening set. During that stretch of action, the score was tied on 10 occasions. A kill by Stipanovich put the Razorbacks ahead, 13-12, for their final lead of the set.
Tennessee (13-2, 6-0 SEC) turned an 18-16 lead into a six-point advantage late in the set to establish the final swing of momentum and the visitors arrived at set point on a kill by DeeDee Harrison. Arkansas (10-6, 2-3 SEC) saved two set points with the help of a Roslandy Acosta kill and an attack error from its opponent. However, the Lady Volunteers closed out the set, 25-19, with a kill from Leslie Cikra.
The 23rd-ranked visitors charged out to an 8-3 lead to start the second game. Out of their first timeout of the set, the Razorbacks began to chip away at the deficit. Arkansas won seven of the next nine points, forcing six Tennessee errors during the stretch to even the score at 10-all. Later in the set, a quick three-point surge put the Lady Volunteers ahead, 17-13, and forced an Arkansas timeout.
Arkansas won the first point out of the break but Tennessee used another late-set surge, a 5-1 run, to take control of play. Back-to-back kills brought the Lady Volunteers to set point. Stipanovich found the floor for the Razorbacks to keep her team alive but on the next play, Tennessee clinched the set, 25-16, to take a 2-0 match lead.
Jasmine Norton registered a kill early in game three to give Arkansas a 4-3 lead. Tennessee responded to take a three-point lead at 9-6 but the Razorbacks rallied to even the score and with the second of consecutive kills from Stipanovich, Arkansas pulled ahead, 11-10.
Later in the set, Tennessee turned a one-point lead into a comfortable cushion, 19-15. The Razorbacks got as close as three the rest of the way before the visitors pulled away late. Arkansas saved one match point with the help of a Tennessee service error but on the Lady Volunteers closed out the set, 25-19, and the match.
Sunday’s match marked the first of three television matches this season for the Razorbacks. Arkansas will also be televised Oct. 26 against LSU on ESPNU and again Nov. 13 against nationally ranked Florida on Comcast and Cox Sports.
The Razorbacks hit the road next weekend for a pair of matches at No. 13 Florida and South Carolina. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.