Alabama clinches win over Arkansas in 5 sets
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Trailing the match 2-1, Alabama rallied with wins in the fourth and fifth sets to earn the comeback victory on the road Sunday afternoon.
Alabama (11-13, 5-5 SEC) was led on offense by Krystal Rivers and Kat Hutson, who each tallied 22 kills while Rivers added a season-high 21 digs for her fourth double-double of the season and her third in the last five matches. Rivers is the first Tide player to post 20-plus kills and digs in a match since she did so almost exactly one year ago on Oct. 31, 2014 against Texas A&M. Brittany Thomas and Leah Lawrence each earned a pair of service aces, giving Lawrence at least one service ace in six straight matches. As a team, Alabama has now totaled at least six aces in each of the last three matches. Lawrence's five blocks accounted for half of the team's total, as the 10.0 team blocks matches a season high in conference play. Sierra Wilson finished the match with 52 assists, putting her 169 shy of Brigitte Slack's career record.
Arkansas (13-8, 3-6 SEC) was led offensively with Pilar Victoria's 24 kills, while she also was second on the team with 14 digs, trailing only Okiana Valle's 18.
Alabama took an early lead in set one, moving up 6-3 on a kill by Krystal Rivers, but Arkansas answered with four straight points to take its first lead of the match, 7-6. Alabama wasn't down for long, using a 5-2 run to take an 11-8 lead as Arkansas took its first timeout. The three-point lead would swing in Arkansas' favor later in the set, 18-15, but the Tide would quickly come back to tie it up at 19-19. Alabama took its first timeout two points later, trailing 21-19, and took its second as Arkansas reached set point, 24-21. A kill by Rivers gave Alabama a point an possession but a service error gave Arkansas the 25-22 win in set one.
Arkansas maintained the momentum early in set two, holding the lead for the entire first half as Alabama took its first timeout trailing 12-8. The Tide fought back to tie the set twice and then took the lead on a service ace by Natalie Murison as the Razorbacks called a timeout down 16-15. Three straight points from Arkansas later in the set would tie it back up at 20-20 as Alabama took a timeout but the Tide retook the lead with a 3-1 run, capped by a Leah Lawrence solo block, to make it 23-21 as Arkansas took its final timeout. Each team would score two more points in the set as Alabama held on to win, 25-23, and even the match at 1-1.
Four unanswered points by Arkansas early in set three gave the home team a 6-2 lead and a three-point run later in the set stretched the lead to five points as Alabama took a timeout trialing 9-4. Alabama would draw back within one point multiple times during the middle of the set, but with a 14-13 lead, Arkansas would score four consecutive points to extend its lead to 18-13. The Razorbacks would hold on to win set three, 25-18, and take a 2-1 match advantage.
Alabama scored the first two points of set four before Arkansas answered with four unanswered to take a two-point lead that the Razorbacks held on to through the first half, 12-10. The Tide would fight back to tie the match at 13-13 before an ace by Lawrence and a kill by Brittany Thomas made it a two-point game at the media timeout, 15-13. Arkansas took its first timeout trailing 17-14 and burned its second soon thereafter with the Tide on top, 20-16. Arkansas would draw within two points but Alabama would end up winning by five, 25-20, to force a deciding fifth set.
The two teams traded points back and forth early in the fifth, with Alabama leading by two at the mid-set switch after a block by Lawrence and Wilson made it 8-6 in the Tide's favor. Arkansas took its first timeout trailing 10-7 but later drew within one point to make it 11-10 as Alabama took its first timeout. The Razorbacks battled to take a late 13-12 lead as the Tide called its second timeout but Bruna Evangelista answered with a cross-court kill after the break to tie it at 13-13, forcing Arkansas to burn its final timeout. A kill by Thomas gave the Tide set point, 14-13, and another kill by Thomas sealed the 15-13 set victory and the comeback 3-2 match win.
Alabama returns home next weekend for a pair of SEC matches, starting against Tennessee (20-6, 6-5 SEC) on Friday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. CT and concluding against South Carolina (9-14, 2-8 SEC) on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. live on the SEC Network.