Hogs put up a fight in five-set loss
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the second consecutive match, the University of Arkansas volleyball team fell just short of an upset on its home court, dropping a five-set decision to No. 19 LSU, 25-22, 27-25, 14-25, 21-25, 15-10, Sunday afternoon at Barnhill Arena. In the loss, Jasmine Norton powered the Razorback offense with a career-high 29 kills at a .386 hitting efficiency, one of three Arkansas players with double-digit kills. Kristin Seaton and Kelli Stipanovich added 13 and 10 kills, respectively, against the Tigers.Norton tallied 17 digs, equaling a career mark, to complete a double-double performance, her third in as many match. Seaton picked up her second double-double of the season adding 10 digs to her kill total. The double-doubles also continued for Lindsay Scanlan who tallied 55 assists and 14 digs. She has eight matches this season with at least 50 assists. Libero Phoebe Bautista totaled a match-high 21 digs."I’m really excited about the way we played today," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We played our best volleyball match of the year (against LSU), and that’s the way it should be down the stretch of the season. Every match should be our best. We played that way against Tennessee and we continued to get better today. We came up short against both teams, but we’re doing the right things and that’s what I’m excited about. I’m bummed for our kids because they played their hearts out today and it would have been great to see them get a big win."In the opening set, Arkansas (11-15, 5-10) held an 11-8 lead after consecutive hitting errors by LSU (20-5, 14-2), but the visitors responded to tie the score and eventually take the lead on an attack error by Stipanovich. The Tigers maintained control of the set, stretching its lead to 20-16 to force an Arkansas timeout. The Razorbacks won four of six points out of the timeout to close the gap and trailed, 22-20, but it was as close as they would get before LSU closed out the set, 25-22.The second set started like the first with the Razorbacks opening a 9-6 lead. LSU won the next two points to shrink their early deficit, but Arkansas went on a 6-1 run, capped by a Seaton kill for a 15-9 lead. The Tigers inched their way back into the set, however, until they pulled even at 18-18. The rest of the set featured six ties and four lead changes. A kill by Stipanovich gave the Razorbacks’ their first set point, but an LSU block squared the score once again. Arkansas had one more set point, leading 25-24, but the Tigers’ Michele Williams came up big for her team with two kills to close out the set, 27-25.Out of intermission, the Razorbacks took early control in the third set. A handful of runs throughout the set pushed the momentum in favor of Arkansas. With the score tied at 4-4, the home team won the next three points to grab the lead. A kill by Norton, one of seven during the set for the freshman, gave Arkansas a 16-11 lead. After a kill by LSU’s Marina Skender, the Razorbacks reeled off five consecutive points to open a 21-12 lead. A pair of kills by Brittnee Cooper, who led LSU with 18 putaways, put a small dent in the Arkansas lead, but back-to-back service aces by Norton gave the Razorbacks the set, 25-14.Arkansas continued its hot swinging to open the fourth. Stipanovich smacked a kill to the ground to cap an early four-point run for a 5-1 lead. LSU pulled back to within two points, 9-7, but a kill by Norton spurred another four-point run. As they had earlier, however, the Tigers fought back and trailed by just one, 18-17, after a miscue by Seaton. But the Razorbacks never lost their lead, pulling ahead 23-18 on a solo block by Scanlan. An attack error by Angela Bensend gave Arkansas set point, 24-19. LSU won the next two points, but on the third set point, Scanlan set the ball out to Norton who put it away to send the match to a decisive fifth set.The visitors raced out to a 4-0 lead in the final set, using a pair of kills and Arkansas errors to grab the advantage. The Tigers held on to their lead and pushed ahead even further. A smash by Cooper gave LSU a 12-5 lead. Norton shouldered the load of a four-point run-three kills and a solo block-to cut the team’s deficit to three, 12-9. It was the last push for the Razorbacks, however, as LSU took three of the next four points to seal the match, 15-10, on a tandem block by Cooper and Skender.
"We’re going to be tough down the stretch," Pulliza said. "We go on to Mississippi State and Alabama, which are must wins to make ourselves eligible for the NCAA Tournament. We’ve talked about it as a team and we’re going to make a run for it. We have to have a good week of practice so we can hit the road and make things happen."The Razorbacks return to action next weekend with a pair of road matches at Mississippi State and Alabama. Both matches will be broadcast on KXUA 88.3 FM in Fayetteville, while the matchup against the Crimson Tide will be televised by Fox Sports South. Log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com for more information.