No. 16 Hogs down Aggies in four sets
SEC VOLLEYBALL ARKANSAS 3, TEXAS A&M 1
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas Coach Jason Watson said the sport of volleyball is becoming as competitive as many other marquee sports in the SEC.
Watson’s No. 16 Razorbacks bounced back after dropping the second set to claim a 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 25-16) win over SEC foe Texas A&M on Sunday afternoon at Barnhill Arena.
“We look at men’s basketball,” Watson said. “We look at women’s basketball. We look at softball. We look at baseball. And finally volleyball may be getting to the stage where there are no easy nights. There are no easy nights in those other sports where for a long time you probably in volleyball you had these teams that were a long, long way away from everybody else.
“I think what you’re seeing with the commitment that schools are paying to volleyball and the coaches that are coming in that that gap is narrowing. Not only is it narrowing, but the mean level of play is getting better in the conference. So it’s phenomenal. It’s hard, but it’s great.”
Arkansas (12-2, 2-0 SEC) put together runs of 7-2 in the third set and 7-0 late in the fourth to pull away for its 10th consecutive win.
Four different Arkansas players had kills in each of those key runs. Jill Gillen, a 5-foot-7 outside hitter, led the Razorbacks with 19 kills and hit .457 to go with 11 digs. Outside hitter Taylor Head also contributed a double-double with 15 kills and a team-high 13 digs along with three block assists. Head and Gillen added two aces apiece.
Middle hitter Sania Petties added 12 kills and hit .524 for the Razorbacks. Setter Hannah Hogue also dished out 44 assists for Arkansas.
Gillen said the Razorbacks have had trouble in the second set at times this season. She also said her team did a good job of refocusing in the fourth set.
“Kinda let our foot off the gas a little bit [in the second set],” Gillen said. “Just kinda reminding ourselves to reset and refocus I think was really key for us.
“It was kinda that reset button that was kinda happening in that fourth set. But how well can we reset in the moment and that was big. … I think we just had to take a second and remember what to do.”
Logan Ledicky, a 6-3 sophomore, caused Arkansas problems with a match-high 23 kills and .439 hit rate. But no other Aggie reached double figures in kills.
The Aggies (9-3, 1-1) had seven service errors and six hitting errors in dropping the opening set. But they were much better in the second set and scored four of five points to lead 21-18. Texas A&M scored four of the last five points to take the 25-21 win and even the match 1-1.
Watson said the Razorbacks were looking to make the Aggies do something good or great to end their service run, but something different came out of that.
“What I think happened is we interpreted that a little bit as to not put some pace on the serve,” Watson said. “So after set two, we were like ‘Hey, we’re going to flip the script here and go back to just being us.’ Just kinda banging some serves and I’m gonna be OK with some errors and you’re going to OK with some errors but we’re going to go put some pressure on them from the service line.
“Certainly they set the stage for that in set three, but then in set four, I thought they did a really nice job of that.”
Arkansas continues SEC play at 7 p.m. Wednesday when it hosts Auburn, which defeated Ole Miss 3-1 Sunday.