Arkansas Blanks State To Claim Top Spot In SEC West

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Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The red-hot Razorbacks proved too much to handle for the Bulldogs Friday night as Arkansas (16-8/8-5 SEC) climbed into first place in the SEC Western Division with a straight-sets win over Mississippi State (10-12/5-8 SEC) at the Newell-Grissom Building.

State fended off three UA serves at set point in the opening frame before bowing 25-23. Arkansas hit a match-best .231 and never trailed in taking the second set 25-21, and then took advantage of 10 MSU attack errors in the third set to clinch the match with a 25-16 win. It was the sixth win in the last seven matches for Arkansas.

MSU's struggles on offense mirrored the team's performance in a straight-sets loss at Arkansas Sept. 23. The Bulldogs were held to a season-low 28 kills in that match in Fayetteville and in Starkville managed but 30 kills and the season's second-lowest attack percentage, .043.

Caitlin Rance registered a team-best 10 kills, her 54th career double-figure showing in kills. But little else worked for the Bulldogs. Junior rightside hitter Faith Steinwedell finished with five kills, a team-best four blocks and eight digs while freshman middle blocker Kristin Byers, appearing in her fifth match of the year, came off the bench in the second set and finished the night with five kills and three blocks.

Arkansas held a 42-30 advantage in kills and led 50-42 in digs, despite a match-leading 14-dig effort by State libero Hillary Parker. Mississippi State did finish with a 10-8 advantage in total team blocks. Freshman Lainey Wyman backed a four-kill showing with three blocks.

Jasmine Norton and Kelli Stipanovich delivered 12 kills each for the Razorbacks, who used 4-0 runs midway in the opening two sets to pull away from close battles with the Bulldogs. Kristin Byers delivered a kill that knotted the score at 15-15 in the third set before Arkansas went on an impressive match-closing 10-1 run.

The Bulldogs conclude their weekend homestand and a nine-match October schedule Sunday with a regionally-televised match against defending SEC West champion LSU (14-8/7-5 SEC). Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) will broadcast the match with first serve set for 1 p.m.



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