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Weekend finale goes to Razorbacks in sweep

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Weekend finale goes to Razorbacks in sweep

AUBURN, Ala. – The University of Arkansas volleyball team closed out its weekend with a straight-set victory over Auburn (25-20, 25-18, 25-19) Sunday afternoon at in Auburn, Ala. The Razorbacks were paced by a match-high 15 kills from Jasmine Norton. Defensively, Arkansas got a match-high 11 digs from libero Christa Alvarez and five total blocks apiece from Roslandy Acosta and Janeliss Torres-Lopez.

"We had a really good collective effort today," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "I’m really proud of our kids for the way they battled today especially after a tough loss Friday. This is a really tough place to play and Auburn played really hard. In the SEC, there are no easy wins."

Kelli Stipanovich added seven kills and was second on the team with 10 digs. Offensively, the Razorback registered a .307 hitting percentage, the team’s third-highest effort during SEC play. In the third set of Sunday’s match, Arkansas hit .421 to close out the Tigers. On the defensive side, the team had 42 digs, 13 more than its opponent.

With the win, Arkansas improves to 17-9 overall and 9-6 in Southeastern Conference play. The nine conference wins are the most by the Razorbacks under Pulliza and the most by the program since the 2006 season. Auburn drops to 10-16 overall and 4-12 in league play.

After trading points early in set one, the Razorbacks went out to a 9-6 lead after consecutive kills from Norton and an Auburn hitting error. On the next play, Norton registered her third kill of the match to force a timeout from the home team. Out of the timeout, the Tigers put together a run to pull to within one point but Arkansas responded with a seven-point surge to take a 18-10 lead.

The Razorbacks’ advantage reached double digits after an attack error by Auburn gave the visitors a 21-11 advantage. From that point, however, the Tigers reeled off six points in a row to pull to within four. Arkansas recovered to regain control of play and arrived at set point with an Auburn service error. The Tigers saved two set points but handed the set to Arkansas, 25-20, with another service error, its fourth of the opening game.

Carrying over the momentum, the Razorbacks won the first six point of the second set. During the run, Arkansas benefited from a pair of tandem blocks and three attack errors from Auburn. Arkansas pushed its lead to seven, 11-4, when Auburn setter Chelsea Wintzinger was called for a lift. Out of a timeout, the Tigers won four of the next five points but Arkansas still held a 12-7 lead.

Later in the set, a kill by Stipanovich gave the team a 20-11 lead. Play went back and forth until a tip kill by Kasey Heckelman found the line to give Arkansas set point, 24-15. Like they did in the opener, the Tigers extended play by winning the next three points. On the team’s fourth opportunity to close out the set, Norton found the floor to clinch the game, 25-18, and give the Razorbacks a 2-0 match lead.

Arkansas won an extended rally to open the third set and went on to take a 5-1 lead after an ace from Norton. The Razorbacks turned a four-point lead into a 15-8 advantage to force an Auburn timeout. During the run, the team got a kill from Torres-Lopez and two kills from Norton. Throughout the remainder of the set, Arkansas led by at least five.

Heckelman pushed the Razorback lead to 20-13 with her final kill of the match. The two teams traded points until Arkansas arrived at match point, 24-17, with the help of Norton’s final putaway. The Tigers saved two match points but on the third, Stipanovich put down a Santos offering to clinch the set, 25-19, and give Arkansas is 13th straight-set win of the season.

The Razorbacks return to action next weekend for home matches against South Carolina and No. 17 Florida. First serve of Friday’s weekend opener against the Gamecocks is set for 7 p.m. (CT) at Barnhill Arena. The weekend slate represents the final home matches of the regular season. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.



Sports Category : Volleyball (W)