TULSA, Okla. – The University of Arkansas volleyball team notched a come-from-behind, five-set victory (25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 25-17, 15-12) over Oral Roberts Tuesday evening at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Tulsa. Jasmine Norton led the way with 20 kills while Hayley Koop and Kelli Stipanovich added 12 and 11 kills, respectively. The Razorbacks lost the second and third sets before rallying to take games four and five for the win.
"It was Oral Roberts’ home opener and they played tough all night long," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "You have to give credit to our players for keeping their composure in a hostile environment. The home crowd wasn’t with us tonight like they were all weekend (at the Arkansas Invitational) so it was us against the world."
Arkansas (4-0) won the first two points of the fifth set and took an 8-4 lead on a kill by Koop as the two teams switched sides of the court; ORU called its first timeout of the decisive set.
Out of the timeout, the Golden Eagles made a big push and rallied back to even the score, 9-9, to force a timeout from the Arkansas bench. Stipanovich came out of the back row for a big kill and Norton posted a solo block to stop the home team’s run, and the Razorbacks led, 11-9.
After another timeout by Oral Roberts, Norton took over with three consecutive kills to give the Razorbacks match point. The Golden Eagles saved the first point but Stipanovich hammered a shot down the line to seal the deal to keep Arkansas undefeated through its first four matches of the season.
Behind the tough serving of Cassie Clarke and Norton, the Razorbacks jumped out to an early 9-2 advantage. A putaway by Kendall Cleveland gave Arkansas a 7-2 lead, forcing ORU to call its first timeout of the match.
The Razorbacks maintained their lead throughout the first set and arrived at set point, 24-15, after a crosscourt thump by Norton. Oral Roberts rallied to win the next six points to close its deficit to three points, but Norton sealed the opener with a kill out of the middle.
Despite losing the first set, the Golden Eagles carried over the momentum of their late charge in the opener. Arkansas won the first three points of the second, but ORU responded to take a 5-4 lead, its first lead of the night. With the home crowd urging them on, Oral Roberts took a 14-9 advantage and Pulliza called a timeout. In contrast to the first set when Arkansas held ORU to a .000 hitting percentage, the Golden Eagles terminated at a .345 clip in the second to take the second, 25-20.
Arkansas’ offensive stumbled during the second and third games with hitting percentages of .030 and .028, respectively, while Oral Roberts turned up their attack. Tough serving by the Golden Eagles and shaky passing by the Razorbacks led the three-set deficit.
The fourth set signaled a switch for Pulliza and his team. They won the first five points of the set to seize early control. The offense responded, as well, with a .400 hitting percentage during the game, doubling the effort of the opponent.