AUBURN, Ala. – The University of Arkansas volleyball team opened the second half of Southeastern Conference play with a road loss to Auburn (26-24, 25-16, 25-15) Friday evening at the Student Activities Center. Janeliss Torres-Lopez had a team-high nine kills and libero Brooke Fournier and Jasmine Norton led the Razorbacks with 12 and 10 digs, respectively.
"We actually started the match well and did some good things in the first set," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We had set point but couldn’t put it away. From that point, Auburn took control and we couldn’t find a way to stop them."
In the opening game, the two teams traded points throughout a majority of the set. Neither team led by more than three as both sides looked for ways to grab any momentum. Arkansas (9-13, 3-8 SEC) grabbed that three-point lead, 19-16 on a kill by Norton and forced a timeout by Auburn (16-7, 7-4 SEC). The Tigers responded and the set score was tied, 23-23, after a service ace by Sarah Bullock.
However, after an attack error by AU’s Katherine Culwell, Arkansas had an opportunity to close out the game. On set point for the Razorbacks, Culwell made up for the error with a kill to tie the score. The Tigers came away with the set win after a hitting miscue by Torres-Lopez. The first set was a defensive struggle with Arkansas posting a .026 hitting percentage and Auburn carrying just a .098 mark.
The beginning stages of game two followed a similar pattern. Both teams went back and forth until Auburn grabbed a three-point lead, 17-14, on an attack error by Torres-Lopez. After a timeout by Pulliza, the Razorbacks won two points in a row, including a kill by Stipanovich. But the home team won the last six points of set two to take a 2-0 set lead into halftime.
Out of the locker room, Auburn raced out to a 5-0 lead to start game three. The Razorbacks rallied behind a scrappy defense to get back into the set. A four-point run, capped by a Torres-Lopez kill, pulled the team even and the score was tied, 9-9. However, the Tigers rattled off a 9-3 run to regain control of the action. Arkansas saved one match point but on the second, Brittney Rhude found the floor to seal the match in favor of Auburn.
The Razorbacks now travel to Athens, Ga., for their weekend finale at the Georgia Bulldogs. First serve of the match is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (CT) from the Ramsay Student Center on the UGA campus. In the first matchup between the two teams this season, Arkansas came away with a five-set victory at Barnhill Arena in the 2010 SEC opener. For more information, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.