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Despite Recent Struggles Team Finds Silver Lining With Recruits

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After dropping seven of the last 10 games, Robert Pulliza, head coach of the Razorback volleyball team, received some good news Nov. 11.

He announced that Rachel Rippee and Reagan Robinson will be part of the 2016 recruiting class.

Rippee, a 6-foot setter from Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri, is a two-time Team USA selection. She was selected to compete on the 2014 USA Girls’ Youth National Volleyball Team. The team finished second at the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation qualifying event in Costa Rica, which qualified Team USA to compete at the Federation of International Volleyball Girls’ Youth World Championships.

In 2013, she was part of the USA Girls’ Select National Training Team that placed second at the USA High Performance Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

During her high school career, she earned all-state honors and garnered two all-district and three all-conference selections.

“Anytime you can get a player that has been part of a USA National Team and that has competed in an international competition, it speaks volumes of that player and the program we build here,” Pulliza said. “We’re really excited to add another player of that caliber.”

Robinson comes to Arkansas by way of Shiloh Christian School in Springdale. She is a three-time all-state selection and earned MVP honors at the state tournament after leading Shiloh Christian to the Class 4A state title.

She earned Wendy’s Player of the Year honors after posting 452 kills, 393 digs, 77 aces and a .369 hitting percentage. The 5-foot-11-inch outside hitter also earned the 2014 Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year.

“We’re excited to keep her Razorback legacy alive,” Pulliza said. “Her dad played tennis here, her sister does track and field here and now adding Reagan adds a valuable player to our team. Players that are legacies understand the pride there is to be a Razorback. She’s going to play with great passion.”

The Razorbacks will lose only three seniors this year in middle blocker Chanell Clark-Bibbs, opposite hitter Liz Fortado and defensive specialist Monica Bollinger.

When their time comes to contribute, Pulliza will have two standout players on whom to rely.

After starting the season 13-2 and cracking the top 25, the Razorbacks have not found the same dominating success in Southeastern Conference play. They are 7-7 this season against conference opponents. The team still has to play four more games, three of which are in Barnhill Arena.

Arkansas is 9-3 at home but an abysmal 4-6 on the road. After beating Louisiana State University in a three-set sweep Nov. 11, the Razorbacks won their third straight match Sunday against Georgia in another three-set sweep.

In the match against Georgia, junior Danielle Harbin led all Razorbacks with a .500 hitting percentage. Fellow junior Pilar Victoria followed closely with a .481 percentage. The two combined for 29 kills in the match.

Junior Adrien Wohlschlaeger recorded 39 assist as she paced the offense for the Razorbacks.

Defensively, Arkansas notched 11 blocks, seven of which came from Clark-Bibbs, who came off the bench in the match.

The Razorbacks won the first set 25-17 and led by as many as seven points. Arkansas won the next two sets 25-16 and 25-14, respectively.

Arkansas will take the floor again against Missouri at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Barnhill Arena. With a 23-4 record, the Tigers are one of the top teams in the SEC.

Alex Nicoll was the editor-in-chief of the Arkansas Traveler from 2017-2019. Before that, Alex was a sport designer, and he wrote stories for the news, lifestyles and sports sections.

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