FAYETTEVILLE – After consecutive weekends on the road, the University of Arkansas volleyball returns to Barnhill Arena Friday evening to play No. 22 Tennessee. First serve of the Southeastern Conference matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. The match will also be televised by Cox Sports Television (CST), channel 119 in Northwest Arkansas.
"It seems like forever since we’ve played at Barnhill so we’re excited to get back," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We get a chance to play in front of our fans against a very good Tennessee team. We’re going to have to come out and play our best but that’s how it is every day in the SEC. It’s another good test for us. We’re expecting Tennessee to play hard and have another great match like they have all season."
Through its first 17 matches of the season, Arkansas (9-8, 3-3 SEC) has played on its home court just six times. The Razorbacks opened the season with the two-day Arkansas Invitational and closed out its home non-conference slate with Oklahoma. Arkansas began conference play with home matches against Georgia and Auburn.
On the season, Jasmine Norton and Kelli Stipanovich lead the Razorbacks’ offensive attack. Norton is second in the SEC with 3.82 kills per set and fifth at the service line with 0.32 aces per set. She is the only player in the conference ranked in the top five of both categories. Stipanovich is hitting .281 this season with 2.27 kills per set. She totaled 24 kills last weekend on the road against South Carolina and No. 2 Florida.
Defensively, the Razorbacks are holding opponents to a .206 hitting percentage during conference play, the third-lowest figure in the league. In connection to joining the starting lineup, Janeliss Torres-Lopez has moved into first place in the SEC with 1.34 blocks per set. She has 51 total blocks-4 solo, 47 assisted-this season and is averaging 1.48 b/s in her last seven matches.
In the all-time series between the two programs, Arkansas leads, 14-12, but UT has won the last five meetings. The Lady Volunteers won both meetings last season, including a five-set battle in Fayetteville. In that match Norton had 22 kills and Amanda Anderson hit .370 with 10 kills. Arkansas has won eight of the 13 matchups played on its home court at Barnhill Arena.
The match with Tennessee (12-3, 4-2 SEC) marks the second-consecutive ranked opponent for the Razorbacks. The Lady Volunteers are on a three-match winning streak, including a straight-set victory over Ole Miss in their last outing.
Entering the weekend, Tennessee is the top hitting team in the SEC with a .290 hitting percentage and holding its opponents to a .185 mark, the fourth-lowest mark in the league. Preseason All-SEC selections Nikki Fowler (3.60 k/s) and Kayla Jeter (3.13 k/s) are fourth and ninth, respectively, in the conference. Leah Hinkey adds a .337 hitting percentage to the UT offense. Defensively, Hinkey is sixth in the conference with 1.11 blocks per set.
The Arkansas-Tennessee match has been designated as the 1st Annual Razorback Dig for the Cure event, benefitting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. Fans wearing pink to Friday’s match will gain admission for $1 and the first 500 fans will receive a pink "Dig for the Cure" wristband.
Following their match with Tennessee, the Razorbacks host Kentucky to close out the weekend. Sunday’s contest is set for a 1:30 p.m. start at Barnhill Arena. To follow the action all weekend, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com for a live stream, interactive in-match blog and live stats.
Download: Notes 9_Tennessee, Kentucky.pdf