The Arkansas volleyball team opened its season in front of a small but vocal crowd in Barnhill Arena on Friday evening with a three-set victory over the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions.
The match began fast and furiously for the Golden Lions as they got out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first set, but the Hogs were quickly able to match their energy. Junior Jillian Gillen provided a spark early, hammering a pair of kills during an exchange that took Arkansas out to a 4-2 lead.
Despite the raucous crowd’s best efforts, the two teams traded points throughout much of the first set, with neither team able to capture any true momentum. At the first break, Arkansas held on to a narrow 15-13 advantage.
“I thought the environment really affected us and not them,” Arkansas head coach Jason Watson said after the match. “I thought they were really comfortable with the (marching) band behind them and it really took us a while to settle down.”
From there, Arkansas quickly grabbed control of the first set, going on a 4-1 run to open up a 19-14 advantage that forced a UAPB timeout. Arkansas was able to carry that momentum to the end of the first set, taking it 25-19.
Despite the relatively close score in the first set, Arkansas, spearheaded by Gillen, was still able to flex its muscles a bit by taking a 15-8 kill advantage into the second set.
The second set began much like the first set with UAPB jumping out to an early lead. However, Arkansas was not so quick to answer and took a timeout facing an early 2-8 deficit. Down 3-10, the Razorbacks dug deep and went on a 8-1 run to tie it at 11 each.
From there, Arkansas never looked back, making play after play, including a wild exchange before a Gillen kill to take a 21-13 lead late in the second. Arkansas continued to impose its will with kill after kill to take the second set 25-16.
The third set broke the trend of slow starts by the Hogs, as they jumped out to a 4-2 lead early, after some impressive offensive play by senior Ellease Crumpton. Sophomore Taylor Head took over during the middle part of the third set, seemingly making every play on the court.
“It really took us a long time to get into our flow there, and I thought set three was much more our personality,” Watson said.
The back half of the third set belonged to Gillen and the Hogs as they powered their way to a 25-11 win, taking the match three sets to none.
“We want to show people that we want them here and that we’re a good team,” Gillen said after the match. “I think we really found our stride and gelled together.”
The Razorbacks looked to continue their winning ways during a doubleheader Saturday, in which they won three sets against Louisiana Tech before dropping a five-set heartbreaker in the nightcap vs. Little Rock.
To stay on top of the action this season, visit arkansasrazorbacks.com for streaming information and live stats for all upcoming matches.