FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas volleyball team returns to action Friday evening with a road match against Mississippi State. First serve of the Southeastern Conference contest is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (CT) start at the Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Miss. Friday will mark the team’s first road match since Oct. 9 at South Carolina.
During its recent five-match home stand, Arkansas posted a 4-1 record including a straight-set victory over LSU in its last outing. With the win, the Razorbacks snapped an 11-match losing streak to LSU and moved the team into a tie for first place in the Western Division. Arkansas currently owns a 15-8 overall record and a 7-5 tally in conference play.
"We’re doing some good things right now but we have to keep working," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We play at Mississippi State Friday and they have had all week to prepare for us. After preparing for LSU, we have one day to prepare for Mississippi State so we have to get back to business quickly."
Arkansas has won three matches in a row and has won five of its last six. Kelli Stipanovich and Jasmine Norton are the top two attackers for the Razorbacks with respective marks of 3.37 and 3.27 kills per set. Arkansas is also represented by two players in the top-10 hitting percentage lists. Kasey Heckelman is seventh in the SEC at .312 and Amanda Anderson ranks ninth with a .307 hitting percentage.
Defensively, libero Christa Alvarez is eighth in the conference at 3.54 digs per set. She is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week. As a team, the Razorbacks are holding their opponents to a .172 hitting efficiency, the third-lowest percentage in the league. Arkansas is also ranked second in the SEC with 2.48 total blocks per set and third in the conference with 1.33 service aces per set.
The two teams met earlier this season with Arkansas coming away with a 3-0 win at Barnhill Arena. The victory pushed the Razorbacks’ advantage in the all-time series to 31-5, the program’s largest series lead against any SEC team. The Razorbacks have won 13 of 17 matches played against Mississippi State in Starkville, but the Bulldogs have won the last two meetings on their home floor.
Mississippi State enters the weekend with a 10-11 overall record and a 5-7 mark in SEC play. The Bulldogs are led offensively by Caitlin Rance and her 4.31 kills per set, the No. 2 figure among SEC attackers. Hannah Wilkerson is fourth in the conference with a .346 hitting percentage and Lainey Wyman is in the SEC with 1.03 blocks per set.
Friday’s match will be the first of three straight road matches for Arkansas. Following their match against Mississippi State, the Razorbacks return to the road next weekend for meetings with Georgia and Auburn. For match-day coverage of Razorback volleyball including an interactive blog, live stats and an audio stream, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.