Seniors play in final match
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas seniors Christina Lawrence, Caira Dortch and Yun Tang officially passed the torch to the next generation of volleyball players Saturday in the final match of the season in Barnhill Arena. Arkansas (7-23, 4-16 SEC) finished the year with a 25-27, 25-23, 25-19, 19-25, 5-15 loss to Ole Miss (14-15, 10-10 SEC). “I’ve been privileged to work with this senior class,” said Arkansas head coach Robert Pulliza. “They welcomed a new coaching staff and a lot of changes with an open mind. They worked hard every day to try and get better. They have shown good leadership on and off the court and I’m really glad I had the chance to know them.” Sophomore Kelli Stipanovich finished the match leading Arkansas with 16 kills. Lawrence and sophomore Heather Royal had 15 kills each with Royal adding 21 digs and three blocks in a solid defensive performance. Junior Kristin Seaton stepped up late with 10 kills and five blocks and sophomore Mackenzie Rhea had a match-high 27 digs for Arkansas. The Razorbacks hit .183 as a team as Ole Miss out-hit (.213-.183) and out-blocked (14-7) Arkansas in the match. “It’s disappointing to lose that last one,” said Pulliza. “We showed good heart and great fight at times but just couldn’t maintain it for the whole match. That’s been the story of the season and something we’ll work hard on for next year.” The first set was a scrappy, long-rallied affair with neither team able to get more than a two-point lead. Pulliza burned his final timeout leading 24-23. Ole Miss scored the next point but gave it right back with a service error. Arkansas answered with service error of its own followed by a bad pass that lead to an easy Ole Miss score. The Rebels capitalized on another bad Arkansas pass for the win in the first frame. The Razorbacks hit .244 and had led nearly the entire set after a nine-all tie. Lawrence paced the team with five kills in the opening set. Ole Miss maintained the momentum early in the second set jumping out to a 3-0 lead but Arkansas chipped away at the score taking a 7-6 lead they would stretch to 11-7 forcing a Rebel timeout. The Razorbacks by as many as six, 16-10, but the Rebels would not go quietly into the night. Ole Miss began chipping away at the lead and the Razorback offense became tentative adjusting to the Rebel block at the net. The Rebels tied the set at 16 and the teams played back-and-forth until the final tie at 19-all. Ole Miss managed a bit of a run pulling within one, 24-23, but Stipanovich put the set away with a kill down the line. Arkansas hit just .143 in the second set with 13 kills but they held Ole Miss to a .093 mark. The third set was a battle of errors early with both teams fighting unforced errors. The Razorbacks trailed by three, 9-12, as Pulliza burned a timeout trying to curb the sloppy play. At that point in the match, Arkansas was hitting .062. Arkansas didn’t quit, however, and rallied behind Seaton to tie the set first at 15 and again at 16 and 17. Back-to-back Ole Miss hitting errors allowed Arkansas to take the lead and Stipanovich put down a booming cross court kill that knocked the wind out of the Rebels. Ole Miss called a timeout but couldn’t overcome the firm momentum shift that favored the Razorbacks. Arkansas ht .278 in set three with Seaton hitting .714 with five kills and no errors to lead the team. The Rebels found themselves in the fourth set and controlled the pace of play from the opening serve. Ole Miss led by as many as six, 15-9, and Stipanovich stepped up with a pair of kills trying to rally the Razorbacks. She finished with four in the frame while Royal led Arkansas with seven in the fourth set. Although Arkansas closed the gap, the Razorbacks were unable to overcome the early deficit and dropped the fourth set. The Razorbacks hit .208 in the fourth set but Ole Miss was steady with a .261 mark forcing a fifth set. Ole Miss picked up where they left off to start the fifth set. The Rebels run out 4-1 and Arkansas burned a quick timeout trying to get back in the game. The break did nothing to help the Razorbacks as the Rebels added two more points and Pulliza quickly called his final timeout trailing 6-1. Arkansas just couldn’t get the offense started in the final set. They trailed 8-2 as the teams changed benches and were never able to climb back into the set. The Ole Miss contest brings the 2008 season to a close for the Razorbacks. For more information about the season or about Arkansas athletics, please log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.