FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Instrumental in the Razorbacks’ two victories over top-30 opponents, libero Okiana Valle has been named the SEC Freshman of the Week as announced Monday afternoon by the league office. She becomes the seventh Razorback to earn Freshman of the Week honors. Valle has also been chosen as the league’s Player of the Week and is now eligible for AVCA national accolades.
Valle led the Razorbacks’ floor defense with 3.92 digs per set during last weekend’s Creighton Classic, highlighted by a 26-dig performance in a win over Kansas State. Leading a quartet of Razorbacks with double-digit digs, she paced a defensive effort that held K-State to a .164 hitting percentage, 140 points below its season average. Her 26 digs are the fourth most by an SEC player in a five-set match this season. Arkansas’ 95 digs against Kansas State represent the program’s highest total since 2006.
The Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, native capped the weekend with a match-high 17 digs and an ace in the upset win over No. 11 Wisconsin. Valle opened play with a career-high four assists against tournament host Creighton. She now has six double-digit dig totals this season, and has had at least eight digs in seven of nine matches since becoming the team’s starting libero. Valle currently averages 3.16 digs per set and is second on the team with 10 service aces.
Arkansas’ win over 11th-ranked Wisconsin was the program’s first win over a ranked team since knocking off then-No. 21 Tennessee during the 2012 season, and the first over a top-15 team since beating No. 5 Florida at Barnhill Arena in 2007. The Razorbacks’ 10 non-conference wins match the program’s high for wins entering SEC play, tying the mark also held by the 1997 and 1999 teams.
The Creighton Classic marked the end of the non-conference season and begins a stretch of seven-straight matches against opponents that played in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Conference play begins Sept. 23 at LSU in a match that will be televised on ESPNU. The Razorbacks’ next home match is Oct. 4 for their SEC home opener against fifth-ranked Florida.
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