Kansas Volleyball Beats No. 6 Minnesota, 3-2

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa –Staring down its second fifth-set match in as many days, the University of Kansas volleyball team used clutch performances to defeat No. 6 Minnesota, 27-25, 25-20, 17-25, 20-25, 15-12. It is the first victory in KU volleyball program history over an opponent ranked that highly in the national poll.

For the second-time in as many days, Kansas (7-1) forced a nationally-ranked team to five sets. Squaring off against No. 6 Minnesota (4-2) in the first Saturday match at the Clarion Inn-vitational, the Jayhawks refused to let the opportunity pass and proceeded to take down their second Top-10 opponent in as many seasons.

“You’re interested in what your team does after some adversity,” head coach Ray Bechard said in reference to Kansas falling to No. 15 UNI on Friday. “Now we want to see how we’ll do after a little bit of success. The reaction should be the same. We were obviously displeased at how the match ended last night, but I’m happy to see how quickly we were able to rebound from that.”

The Jayhawks received double-digit kill efforts from senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc and freshman outside hitter Sara McClintonen route to taking down the team who has two sweeps against Top-10 Texas already this season.

Mayfield led the Jayhawks with 19 kills while Jarmoc and McClinton recorded new career-highs with 14 and 12 kills, respectively. On an all-out blocking rampage, Kansas recorded 18 total blocks as a team, led by career-best performances from junior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree (9), freshman outside hitter Chelsea Albers(8) and Jarmoc, who’s nine tied her personal best. Tolefree also chipped in eight kills without a single attack error.

Minnesota middle blocker Tori Dixon and outside hitter Ashley Wittman powered the Golden Gophers with a combined 48 kills and just nine errors between them.

“We don’t have to wonder if they’re a quality team,” Bechard said. “They’ve already played several quality matches and beat Texas twice. They are a legitimate team from a legitimate conference, but this is a small part of a big picture. We have to continue to be mentally tough and fundamentally sound.”

A service error handed Kansas the first point of the morning and another tied the score in the early minutes, 4-4. Two-straight kills from Mayfield and Jarmoc tied the score again before the duo paired up for a block to build a 9-6 lead and force a Minnesota timeout.

Albers and Tolefree chalked up the Jayhawks third block of the morning to take a slight 12-11 lead. Wittman continued to come on strong, racking up 10 kills in the opening frame, including consecutive efforts that put Minnesota in front, 15-14.

Grinding it out, Jarmoc recorded her fifth solo block of the year and followed that with a service ace to help push Kansas ahead, 19-16. Tolefree and Albers collaborated at the net to block an attack from Hailey Cowles to hand the Jayhawks their largest lead of the morning, 21-17. Interim head coach Laura Bush asked for the timeout, Bush stands in for Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon as he is currently coaching the U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team.

Out of the break, the Golden Gophers used three-straight kills from Wittman to mount a comeback. Two quick KU timeouts later, the Jayhawks responded with a comeback of their own. Sophomore setter Erin McNortonchecked in and dished out three assists, including the final one to Jarmoc that ended the intense first set in favor of the Jayhawks, 27-25.

Mayfield collected the first two points to kickoff the second set, and Tolefree and sophomore setter Kara Wehrsstepped up for the block to tie the score, 3-3. McNorton located a sliver of open floor on Minnesota’s side of the net and dumped off a well-placed ball to start the rally. Her first kill as a Jayhawk inched her team closer, 12-10.

The Gophers kept swinging as the Jayhawks kept blocking. Albers and Tolefree posted another block to tie the score at 14-14. Consecutive kills from Cowles and Wittman pushed Minnesota to an 18-15 advantage, prompting a timeout from Bechard.

After the pause, McNorton struck again, sending her first collegiate service ace over the net. A kill from Mayfield and an ace from junior defensive specialist Morgan Boubhanded Kansas its first lead of the set, 20-19. Pouring it on, Mayfield swung for another kill and the Jayhawks forced three Gopher errors to find themselves at match point, 24-20.

A Minnesota timeout couldn’t stop the Jayhawk surge, a final error on the part of the Gophers sealed the set and the two-set Kansas lead, 25-20.

Kills from Mayfield and Tolefree spotted Kansas the early 5-3 edge in the third set. The Jayhawks accumulated two-point leads throughout the set, but were constantly answered with kills from Wittman and Dixon. The two racked up 12 kills in the third set.

Out of their own timeout, the Jayhawks came out firing off the hands of Jarmoc, who launched a kill and closed the gap, 11-9. Minnesota countered with a 5-1 run, however, to spring forward, 16-10, the largest lead for either team in the morning match.

Jarmoc continued to shine with her increasingly famous solo block, service ace combo, forcing Bush to signal the timeout. Working from behind, Tolefree and Albers joined forces for the block, closing the deficit, 14-18. Freshman outside hitter Sara McClintonchipped in, while the Jayhawks kept working to get within five.

Despite five blocks as a team in the third set alone, Wittman rolled out a pair of kills combined with a Jayhawk attack error to finish the set, 25-17.

Three early kills from McClinton broke the career-high she set the evening before and got the Jayhawks out in front, 5-3, to start the fourth set. McNorton and Mayfield kept it rolling with back-to-back unassisted kills, working out to a 7-5 lead. Jarmoc made for the third Jayhawks into double-digits when her 10th kill stretched the lead, 12-10.

A service ace from Cowles tied the game at 14 as both teams stayed hot. While the Jayhawks were swinging for a .353 attack percentage, the Golden Gophers were hitting at a blistering .565 team mark. Meanwhile, Dixon’s service ace put her team ahead, 18-15, and Bechard wanted the timeout.

Although Jarmoc and Tolefree each came out to register kills, Minnesota benefited from late Jayhawk service and attack errors to bring the Big Ten power to match point. Unwilling to surrender, Jarmoc crushed her 12th – and career-best 13th – kill, but couldn’t stop the Golden Gophers from forcing a fifth set, 25-20.

In the deciding set, Albers and Tolefree claimed the first point with the duo’s third block of the morning. Three-straight Gopher errors and a block from Albers and Jarmoc propelled Kansas to the 5-2 lead.

As the No. 6 team in the country would do, a timeout allowed them room to regroup and bring on retaliation, closing the gap, 6-5.

Kansas refused.

Another McNorton kill and two-straight from Mayfield complemented brilliant defensive play by Boub and Riley, surging the Jayhawks forward, 10-5. Tolefree connected on a kill, keeping the Jayhawks poised, 13-10.

The Jayhawks forced a final error to close the set and take the victory, 15-12.

Kansas will wrap up the Clarion Inn-vitational against St. Louis at 5 p.m. CT. Fans can follow the action on GameTracker.