Razorbacks hold off Alabama in five sets
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – For the second time this season, the University of Arkansas volleyball team outlasted Alabama in a five-set victory, 25-18, 25-17, 20-25, 25-27, 15-13, Sunday afternoon at The CAVE. Jasmine Norton tallied a match-high 24 kills and 21 digs in the win, and freshman teammate Cassie Clarke dished out 38 assists in her first career start. Kristin Seaton added 11 kills and libero Phoebe Bautista totaled 15 digs in the win.The two teams split the first four sets-Arkansas (12-16, 6-11 SEC) winning sets one and two before Alabama (8-20, 6-12 SEC) rallied to take the third and fourth-to reach the decisive fifth. With the score tied at 3-3, the Crimson Tide pushed ahead to take a 6-4 advantage after a dump kill by their setter, Kayla Schmidt. The Razorbacks responded with a four-point run behind a pair of Alabama miscues and kills by Clarke and Seaton and led, 8-6.The remainder of the set was a back-and-forth affair. In total, the fifth set featured nine ties and five lead changes. Arkansas grabbed the lead for the final time after a kill by Norton gave the Razorbacks the 13-12 advantage. Clarke followed with a service ace on the next play to give Arkansas two more match points. The home team saved the first with a kill by Kayla Fitterer, but Norton’s final kill on the Razorbacks’ fifth match point of the day sealed the victory."What a great volleyball match," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "We came out playing some very good volleyball to win the first two sets, but Alabama made the comeback here at their home. But we stayed steady and executed and we got it done. Everybody did a good job and I was excited for Cassie Clarke, getting her first start here on TV on the road in the SEC."Sets one and two belonged to the Arkansas as Pulliza’s team posted a .339 hitting percentage during the first two sets of play. In the opener, the Razorbacks took control of the set with a four-point run to take an 8-3 lead. They grabbed their biggest advantage of the set after kill by Seaton put the score at 17-8 in favor of Arkansas. The Crimson Tide got no closer than five the rest of the set as Norton smacked a kill to clinch the game.Arkansas continued its hot hitting in the second. With the score knotted at 4-4, the Razorbacks won six of the next seven points to take a 10-5 lead. As the set progressed, the home team fought to stay in the match, getting as close as three, but Arkansas strung together a stretch of mini-runs to grab full momentum. Back-to-back errors by Alabama gave the Razorbacks a 20-11 lead, and despite a late push, Arkansas-hitting .321 in the set–closed out the second, 25-17, on a kill by Kelli Stipanovich.Unlike the first two sets, the Crimson Tide jumped out to the early advantage in the third. A tandem block by Schmidt and Calli Johnson forced Pulliza to take a timeout with his team trailing, 7-3. Alabama’s lead was as large as six before the Razorbacks rallied with a 7-1 run to even the score at 13-13. Seaton and Amanda Anderson teamed up for a block to give Arkansas a 15-14 lead. The Razorbacks led again two points later, but Alabama finished the set on a 10-4 run, sending the match into the fourth.The tightest set of the match, the fourth began with Arkansas taking a 4-1 lead on a kill by Stipanovich. That three-point margin represented the largest lead for either team all set. Alabama took its three-point lead at 15-12 with a Fitterer kill, but the Razorbacks quickly tied the score with three-straight points. With Arkansas trailing, 22-21, Stipanovich took over with three kills in a row to give Arkansas two match points. The Razorbacks went on to add another match point, but Alabama held off defeat and Jennifer Weber sent the match into the fifth set with a service ace. Arkansas returns to Fayetteville for two home matches next weekend against Auburn and Georgia. The matchup with the Tigers is set for a 7 p.m. (CT) first serve at Barnhill Arena. For more information, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
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