Kansas Sweeps Season Opener, Defeats Northwestern State, 3-0

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – An efficient showing that included a .364 attack percentage and a pair of Jayhawks with double-digit kills helped the Kansas volleyball team roll past Northwestern State in its season opener, kicking off the Arkansas Invitational at Barnhill Arena, Friday afternoon, 25-12, 25-14, 25-18.

Kansas (1-0) moved to 13-2 in season openers under 15th-year head coach Ray Bechard, and put on an impressive offensive display in the process. While holding Northwestern State (0-1) to a .019 attack percentage, the Jayhawks ignited for a .364 efficiency mark, including a .412 percentage in the second set alone.

“We were very efficient offensively, and that was without passing the ball that well on first contact,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Once we got the ball to our attackers, I thought we had some great balance. This year, we’re really spreading that out.”

Redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc set the tone, cranking out 12 kills in the sweep. The All-Big 12 Preseason selection wasn’t alone on the offensive production front as Kansas brought a well-balanced game plan into the debut. On the outsides, sophomore Sara McClinton racked up 10 kills, while fellow sophomore Chelsea Albers came with nine.

Equally impressive was senior Tayler Tolefree’s .700 hitting accuracy for the match, one of three Jayhawks to swing over .400 with more than 10 attacks. Dishing out the assists was junior Erin McNorton, who finished with a career-high 40 mark in her first career start. Junior libero Brianne Riley led the back row with 24 digs and a pair of service aces. The Jayhawks opened the match hitting an efficient .314 in the first set, while holding the Lady Demons to a -.024 mark.

Earning her second career start, redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael put down back-to-back kills to hand Kansas the early 5-2 edge. Firing back, the Lady Demons took advantage of a pair of Jayhawk miscues to close KU’s lead and knot the set, 7-7. The tie was brief, however, as the Jayhawks rattled off five-straight points. Back-to-back aces from Riley capped an 11-2 run that saw KU pull away, 18-9.

McClinton didn’t need to start to contribute, as she came in for a team-high four kills in the opening frame, bringing the Jayhawks to set point. She and Tolefree stepped up for a block to quickly end the first set, 25-12. Looking to sprint through the second set, as well, the Jayhawks shot out to a 4-0 lead before NWSU narrowed the gap to a single point.

Once again, KU turned it on to break away. Kills from Carmichael, Jarmoc and McClinton fueled the 7-2 rally to put the Jayhawks ahead, 12-6. The Lady Demons tried again to rally, cutting KU’s lead to two, 12-10.

Jarmoc and the Jayhawks wouldn’t let the visiting team any closer, as her six kills in the set helped her team finish the set on a 13-4 run. Hitting at a blistering .412 efficiency in the second frame, Kansas went to the break with the 25-14 victory and a 2-0 lead.

In the third and final set, Kansas rolled out to an 8-2 advantage with a solid blocking presence, led by Albers and Jarmoc. The duo led the Jayhawk blocking effort with three apiece as KU went on to out block NWSU, 7-4. Although the Lady Demons would score more points in the last frame than the first two, the ultimate outcome was never in doubt. A kill from middle blocker Jessie Allen brought the Jayhawks to match point and back-to-back errors sealed the victory, 25-18, and the sweep.

Friday: vs. Northwestern State, KU, 3-0 (25-12, 25-14, 25-18)
Saturday: vs. Tennessee-Martin, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday: at Arkansas, 7 p.m.