FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team continues Southeastern Conference play this weekend with home matches against Kentucky and No. 23 Tennessee. Friday’s matchup against the Wildcats is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (CT) first serve at Barnhill Arena. The Razorbacks enter the weekend with a 10-4 overall record and 2-1 mark in conference play.
"Kentucky is certainly schedule tested in terms of who they played during the non-conference season," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "They are very well coached and have good players just like every team in the SEC. We have to be prepared for that. It will be a fun match and we’re excited that the first time around is here at Barnhill."
In her senior season, Kelli Stipanovich leads the Arkansas attack with 3.41 kills per set, the seventh-best figure in the SEC. She is one of two Razorbacks ranked in the top 10 of the category, joined by teammate Jasmine Norton who is 10th in the conference with 2.98 kills per set. Both players are also ranked inside the league’s top 10 of points per set. Janeliss Torres-Lopez is fourth in the SEC with a .357 hitting percentage and setter Raymariely Santos is seventh in the conference with 9.84 assists per set.
Defensively, Arkansas is the top blocking team in the SEC. Through the first 14 matches of the season, the Razorbacks average 2.48 blocks per set and are holding their opponents to a .155 hitting percentage, the third-lowest figure in the SEC. Torres-Lopez is fifth in the conference with 1.03 blocks per set while libero Christa Alvarez has cracked the top 10 in digs with 3.39 digs per set.
With two victories last season, Kentucky (12-3, 3-1 SEC) leads the all-time series with Arkansas, 15-13. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Wildcats came away with a straight-set win in Lexington, Ky. The Razorbacks own an 8-6 advantage in matches played in Fayetteville but are looking to end an eight-match losing streak to Kentucky.
The Wildcats’ offense features six players averaging more than two kills per set. That group is led by Ashley Frazier and her 2.79 kills per set. Kentucky is third in the SEC with 2.41 blocks per set and libero Stephanie Klefot leads the conference with 4.88 digs per set.
Friday’s match against the Wildcats marks the beginning of a three-match stretch against the top three teams in the SEC Eastern Division. During that span, the Razorbacks will host Kentucky and No. 23 Tennessee and then head to Gainesville, Fla., to take on No. 13 Florida.
"I’m only thinking about Kentucky," Pulliza said. "As it is, that’s a big enough task. Every SEC opponent is a big task. You have to prepare for everybody’s best in the SEC because you have to expect them to be at their best. In this conference, everybody’s best is enough to beat you if you’re not ready to go."
Log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com for match coverage including interactive blog, live stats and video stream. Students attending volleyball matches are asked to use the street-level entrance on Stadium Drive to enter Barnhill Arena.
Following their match against Kentucky, the Razorbacks return to their home court Sunday for a televised matchup against No. 23 Tennessee. The match will be televised by SportSouth and is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first serve at Barnhill Arena.