Pulliza era is officially underway
Jump to No. 17 Colorado State box score
FT. COLLINS, Colo. – The Pulliza era is officially underway as first-year head coach Robert Pulliza guided the University of Arkansas volleyball team through its first match of the 2008 season at No. 17 Colorado State in Ft. Collins, Colo., Friday. The host Rams got the best of Arkansas winning 16-25, 16-25, 18-25, under the new 25-point scoring cap but Arkansas had several bright spots in the opener. Play continues Saturday at the Hilton Classic. The opening round saw Denver defeat Eastern Washington in three sets. “There is no doubt we are a better team now then two-and-a-half weeks ago,” said Pulliza. “This was a great opportunity to start the season in a great environment. We were able to evaluate, measure and address our weakness tonight.” Official statistics were unavailable after the match but had stats had Arkansas with a negative team hitting percentage in the loss. Freshman Kelli Stipanovich and junior Kristin Seaton unofficially lead the team with five kills each while sophomore Heather Royal paced the team with 12 digs. Tang added four kills and four blocks. The first set saw the Razorbacks come out strong getting on the board with a block assist from juniors Destiny Clark and Lindsay Scanlan. The block marks Clark’s return to the court after missing all of last year with an injury. Also getting into the act quickly was senior Yun Tang. Tang, a senior from Beijing, China, saw only spot action last year but had three blocks and a kill in the first set. Arkansas hung with the more experienced Rams in the early part of the set playing even for the first 10 points. But CSU, who returned 10 players and five starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team took quick advantage of Arkansas’ youth. The Rams started three seniors including Mekana Barnes who touched the Razorbacks for five booming kills in the first frame as CSU out-hit Arkansas .206-.000. Arkansas had the blocking advantage, 4-3, in the first set, but CSU doubled up the Razorbacks with a 14-7 kill advantage. Freshmen Phoebe Bautista and Stipanovich were thrown into the fire in the first collegiate match. Both started with Bautista earning the libero role. Arkansas was more in synch with the new offense to start the second set. The Razorbacks took advantage of a Ram service error and followed up with a service ace from Clark to take a 2-0 lead. A block from Tang and Scanlan kept the run going and Arkansas got another service error from CSU as they opened their first lead of the night. The Razorbacks stretched the lead to 8-2 forcing CSU to burn its first timeout of the match. The Rams answered the call out of the break outscoring Arkansas 9-3 to tie the set at 11. Arkansas kept the set close but never recovered its advantage. “We came out ready to go in the second game,” said Pulliza, “and got them out of system. But we kinds of relaxed a bit and you can’t do that against good teams – especially at home.” The third set saw Arkansas and Colorado State play close in the first 10 points. It was a back-and-forth battle with neither team able to pull away. Arkansas held a 10-9 advantage when CSU called its first timeout. Arkansas scored out of the break but CSU quickly rallied with a pair of points tying the set at 11. CSU got the benefit of a couple of close plays taking a two-point lead, 15-13, and added another point on an Arkansas hitting error prompting Pulliza to call his first timeout. But Arkansas struggled to stop the surging Rams as they began to pull away. Pulliza took his final break trailing, 19-14, and Arkansas managed a mini-run but couldn’t overcome the Colorado State advantage. “At times, we did some really good things,” said Pulliza. “We have to learn to maintain that level of intensity and keep up the defensive pressure. We also have to limit our unforced errors. Overall I was pleased with the night and I’m glad to have a match under our belts.” Arkansas continues tournament action Saturday facing Eastern Washington at 11 a.m. and wrapping up with Denver at 6 p.m. For more information about Arkansas volleyball please log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.