Arkansas 3, St. Mary's (Calif.) 0

Dec. 2, 2005

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Denitza Kolevas 11 kills, including four late in game three, allowed the Lady Razorbacks to show their teeth, defeating the St. Marys Gaels in a sweep, 30-27, 30-17, 30-21, in first Round NCAA tournament action at the Hearnes Center.

Arkansas (21-11) survives until Saturday to face the winner of Fridays late game in Columbia, between No. 10 Missouri, and Missouri State.

The St. Marys Gaels of the West Coast Conference fell to 19-10, as they led just twice, in three-game match against the Lady Razorbacks, despite a match-high, 14 kills from sophomore Missie Stidham.

Arkansas owned St. Marys in attack percentage, posting a .358 average, while holding the Gaels to .111. The Gaels posted a .000 attack percentage with nine kills and nine errors in game two. In contrast, Arkansas senior middle blocker Karla Crose was nearly infallible, with six kills on seven attempts to post a .857 average.

St. Marys, the second ranked blocking team in the nation, received a taste of their own medicine, losing the blocking battle 27 to 10. Crose contributed 10 blocks, and sophomore Christina Lawrence had eight.

Arkansas and St. Marys played nearly point for point early in game one. Arkansas took advantage of an early opportunity as Lawrences three straight kills widened the gap to 13-9. The Lady Razorbacks continued to feed off of St. Marys self inflicted errors, two kills by Crose, and a crucial block assists by Lawrence and Crose, making the score 20-14 before a time out.

Following the timeout, the Gaels rallied to three straight points on a kill from Taylor Groess, a block from Christina Kirk and a service ace from Groess, pushing the score to 21-17. The Gaels drew closer late in the game as consecutive kills from Kaui Salzman, and a key block from Salzman and Kirk forced the match to 28-27. St. Marys would get no closer, as Arkansas would come back to score two straight points and take game one, 30-27.

Game two featured an Arkansas team that jumped on the Gaels early and never let up. Key blocks from Lawrence and Crose allowed Arkansas to take an early lead. The Gaels continued to play tough, battling to a 15-12 score before the Lady Razorbacks again took control, forcing a 12-4 run, pushing the game to 27-16. Kele Brewers back-to-back kills and an error by St. Marys Brittany Barker closed the game, 30-17.

St. Marys continued to hang around, storming out of the locker room with renewed enthusiasm, matching points with Arkansas in game three. A four-point run gave Arkansas the 6-3 lead; a lead they would not relinquish. The Lady Razorbacks rode their way to the sweep, closing out the match on an 8-2 run, highlighted by Kolevas kills, and three spectacular blocks by Crose, who was aided by Koleva and Lawrence allowing Arkansas to win the third game, 30-21.

St. Marys Coach Rob Browning

On Arkansas
Arkansas beat us in every aspect of the game. They outplayed us, out coached us. They were well prepared and they just played a lot better than we did.

On St. Marys Season.
Good season for us. [It was] very, very disappointing to our girls and our staff to finish this way. Its one thing to lose a hard-fought battle, its another thing to just not play well and not show up and get beat so badly. So, were really disappointed, very disappointed. We didnt come here just to play the first round.

Arkansas Quotes

On having experience playing in games at Hearnes:
We actually played here in December 2003, so thats three years in a row that weve played here in the first round. So I wasnt concerned about that as much as who we were playing against.

Quotes from girls on getting into the second round:

Christina Lawrence

I think it feels awesome. Weve worked so hard all year and all summer, and we made a commitment early that we were going to stay and work out really hard. I think we played really well together. We played together, as a whole, as a team. I thought the setters did a really good job of setting the offense.

Karla Crose

We struggled most of the season on not finishing strong. We might go out and give away a game. But tonight we came out strong and knew what we had to do. We prepared well because we were off for two weeks. And tonight we just came out and left it all out on the floor and just pushed through.

On possibly facing Missouri:
Both of these teams Missouri and Missouri State) are good teams, quality teams. I think it will be a good match. We know Missouri has a great team right now. We know that. Any time you have to go on the road to face a number one seed, its certainly a disadvantage, but I feel good about where were at right now. At this point its about going out and laying on the line tomorrow tonight no matter who were playing. Missouri did eliminate us last year, but Missouri State also beat us earlier this year at home. So (beating) either one would be nice right now.

-- Courtesy Josh Fowler / Missouri