Razorbacks win in five at Tulsa

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TULSA, Okla. – The University of Arkansas volleyball team picked up a big a non-conference road match victory at Tulsa Tuesday.

Arkansas (5-3) defeated Tulsa (6-1), 25-23, 23-25, 12-25, 25-23,18-16, snapping a six-match Golden Hurricane winning streak. The Razorbacks return home hosting the Arkansas Invitational in the final non-conference matches of the season.

Four players were in double-digit kills for Arkansas paced by a season-best 15 from sophomore Kelli Stipanovich. Freshman Jasmine Norton also tallied 15 while senior Kristin Seaton added 14. SEC Freshman of the Week Amanda Anderson ad 12 and led Arkansas with seven blocks for the match. Seaton hit .393 leading Arkansas in the match.

Sophomore Phoebe Bautista led Arkansas with 19 digs and sophomore Mackenzie Rhea added a season-best 10 for the Razorbacks. Senior setter Lindsay Scanlan tied her career-best with 53 assists.

"It was a thriller" Arkansas head coach Robert Pulliza said. "Today was a thriller. You know it was 18-16 in the fifth and it doesn’t get any better than that. Tulsa is a very good team and we talked about that. Our kids delivered when it counted. We took the first set then dipped a little in the next two sets. But we rebounded in the fourth and fifth. It was total courage and energy.

Arkansas looked good for the early points in the final set, keeping the score close through the first five points.

Tulsa managed a mini-run with four consecutive points but Arkansas’ never-quit approach helped the Razorbacks rally closing within two, 7-9. The Razorback surge prompted the Golden Hurricane to take a timeout and they answered with a kill to extend the set five lead.

Anderson got the block going and Arkansas again came back, tying the set on a deep line shot from Stipanovich. Anderson got the next kill giving Arkansas a late lead, 11-10, as Tulsa called its final timeout.

The back-and-forth fifth set was indicative of the entire match but the Razorbacks controlled the momentum late lifting them to the match win.

The set would be tied late at 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16 before Arkansas would close it out. A service error by Tulsa gave Arkansas the ball back with the lead and Stipanovich put the finishing touches on a good night lacing a kill down the left sideline for the win.

Arkansas did something not many other teams have done this year, take a game from the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa entered the match 6-0 and had won five of those in three sets.

The first set was a hard-hitting affair that saw Tulsa hold the advantage for much of the early scoring. The score was tied 14 times and there were eight lead changes demonstrating how closely matched these teams were.

The Razorbacks tied the set late, first at 21, then at 22 and finally at 23. Stipanovich tallied one of her three kills in the set giving Arkansas the lead. Tulsa burned a timeout but Stipanovich squeaked a serve over the net for the final point of the frame.

Arkansas out-hit Tulsa, .222-.188, in the first set led by reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Anderson with a 4-0-6 performance.

The second set was also close from the first to last serve. The Razorbacks were able to control the tempo early in the frame but the home team scratched back into the set late. Arkansas had a 22-20 lead when Tulsa took its final timeout. The Golden Hurricane took advantage of back-to-back Razorback hitting errors knotting the contest at 22.

Pulliza then took his first timeout and Arkansas responded with a slicing kill from Anderson on the slide. But a pair of kills from Jennifer Eichler gave Tulsa the advantage. The final timeout wasn’t enough to stop Tulsa who blocked the Razorbacks on the final play evening the match at one-set each.

Arkansas was out of sorts in the third set and never really established the offense. Pulliza tried several combinations but the Razorbacks just couldn’t settle into a rhythm. The Razorbacks had a zero hitting percentage for the third set while Tulsa was solid, hitting .444.

Stipanovich and Norton were both quiet in the middle frames but Pulliza wasn’t worried.

"Tulsa did a good job of slowing them (Stipanovich and Norton) down but both of them came up with major kills in the end and they got it done," he said. "Kelli – I can’t say enough about how courageous she was rebounding from her start to finish strong. It’s some of the best play I’ve seen from her."

The Razorbacks rallied in the fourth set keeping scores close throughout the frame. Great defense on both sides of the net made for exciting volleyball for fans of both teams.

Arkansas found itself in a hole, 9-12, but chipped away at the score behind a pair of big blocks from Janeliss Torres-Lopez and Seaton to tie then lead the set.

Tulsa used both timeouts in quick succession with the last coming with a 20-19 Razorback lead. Teams broke the huddle and Stipanovich went cross court with a kill keeping the momentum on Arkansas’ side of the net. Stipanovich continued to play well and Norton chipped in with a couple of key kills.

Tulsa threatened late, tying the set at 23 but Arkansas hung on for the win.

The Razorbacks wrap up non-conference play hosting the Arkansas Invitational Friday and Saturday in Barnhill Arena. For more information regarding Razorback volleyball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.