KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Freshmen duo Jasmine Norton and Amanda Anderson led the University of Arkansas volleyball team with 12 and 11 kills, respectively, but it wasn’t enough in Friday evening’s loss to Tennessee. The Lady Vols came away with the 25-19, 25-20, 26-24 victory in front of 852 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena. Arkansas (7-7, 1-2) was outhit, .352-.167, in the match.
"We did some high level things tonight and had a lead in every set, but we couldn’t close it out," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "Tennessee is a good team and they are very physical. If you look at the blocking numbers, we just couldn’t slow them down enough at the net. I still thought we did some very good things, so I’m pleased with our play but disappointed in the outcome."
Arkansas jumped out to an early 3-0 advantage and built a five-point lead at 7-2 after a kill on an overpass by Janeliss Torres-Lopez. Anderson proved to be the hot hand for the Razorbacks in the first set with three kills in the first in the first seven points of the match. She finished the set with five kills, and along with Torres-Lopez, the Razorback middle hitters totaled eight putdowns in the opening set of play.
The Lady Vols crept back into the match and evened the score, 9-9, with a block by Farren Powe. The next several points went back and forth with neither team gaining more than a one-point lead. The match was tied five times before Tennessee took control with a 17-14 lead, forcing head coach Robert Pulliza to call his first timeout.
The home team maintained its momentum and eventually led by five, 21-16, but two Tennessee hitting errors and a kill by Anderson brought the Razorbacks back within two. After a timeout to halt the Arkansas push, the Lady Vols won the final four points of the set to win the opener, 25-19.
Anderson continued the effective hitting with two more kills early in the second and the Razorbacks had a 5-3 lead. Four consecutive points by the Lady Vols forced an Arkansas timeout, but Tennessee held on to its advantage and eventual led by five at 11-6.
Held scoreless during the first set and a half, Norton provided a lift in the second with six kills. Behind Norton and Anderson, the Razorbacks evened the score, 13-13, but the Lady Vols responded by winning four of the next five points to take a 17-14 lead. Arkansas made one last push in the set to pull within one, but the home team went on to extend its lead and win, 25-20, to take the 2-0 set advantage.
To open the third, the Razorbacks reeled off seven consecutive points after trailing by two. A block by Norton and Allison Johnson gave Arkansas the 8-3 lead. The lead would eventually grow to seven, 12-5, on a kill by Kristin Seaton, and eight, 13-5, on a block by Johnson and Seaton.
The Razorbacks would hold the lead for a majority of the set, but Tennessee slowly made its way back into the match behind a pair of kills by Nikki Fowler. A putaway by the Lady Vol outside hitter cut the Arkansas lead to three, 16-13, and Pulliza used his first timeout of the set. A kill by Norton pushed the lead back to five at 20-15, but Tennessee score five straight and pulled even on a Kelli Stipanovich hitting error.
The rest of the match was a see-saw affair with the teams trading sideouts until the Lady Vols arrived at match point. Down to its potential last swing, senior setter Lindsay Scanlan set a slide to Anderson who put the ball down to keep the Razorbacks alive. Two points later, however, the Tennessee block showed up and stuff a Razorback attack to end the match, 26-24 in the third.
"We have to learn to play with an edge and a higher competitive spirit," Pulliza said. "That is something we had to learn in the practice gym and in workouts to translate into matches like this. The very good teams can do that consistently, and we just weren’t able to do that tonight."
The Razorbacks return to action Sept. 27 as they close the weekend at No. 17 Kentucky. The match is set for a 12:30 p.m. (CT) start from Memorial Coliseum and will be televised in Lexington by the local CBS affiliate. It will be the first of three scheduled televised contests this season for Arkansas. For more information, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
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