Kansas Starts Hot, Ends Hot to Defeat LMU, 3-1

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Dominant performances in the first and fourth sets combined with a highlight reel day from freshman Tiana Dockery sent the Kansas volleyball team to a tournament-opening victory against Loyola-Marymount at the Golden Dome Invitational, Friday evening, 25-13, 25-23, 21-25, 25-14.

The victory stretched Kansas’ (10-1) win streak to eight, the longest since the 2004 season, while dropping Loyola-Marymount to 6-4 on the season.

Kansas, who entered the weekend leading the Big 12 Conference in attack percentage, kicked off the match firing at a .417 attack percentage in the opening frame before putting up uncharacteristically low hitting numbers in the second and third. After dropping the third set, the Jayhawks reignited for a dominant, 25-14 victory to seal the 3-1 win.

With LMU keying in on the Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Week, redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, the Jayhawks found alternate ways to score. Sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton and senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree led the Jayhawks with 14 and 10 kills, respectively. Jarmoc, who didn’t record her first kill under midway through the second frame, and redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael each chipped in eight kills.

“They were keying in on our middles and (Tiana) Dockery did a great job on responding to that,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Sara (McClinton) stepped it up as well. We found that balance that we needed to get the win tonight.”

Bechard, who stands at 948 career wins after Friday, was right – it was Dockery that stood out. The rookie from Richmond, Texas nearly posted a double-double in digs and blocks as she recorded a career-high nine in each category. In fact, the blocking advantage played a vital factor in the win, with Kansas holding the 14-6 edge. Tolefree added five block assists to remain in seventh on KU’s all-time list (278), while Jarmoc put up seven rejections to keep her at 8th on the list (255).

Junior libero Brianne Riley led the defense with 18 digs, bringing her eight digs away from sixth all-time on KU’s career list (1,096).

The opening set allowed the Kansas blockers to prove the validity of their climbing into the top-20 in the country earlier this week. Three team blocks shot the Jayhawks out to a 7-2 lead, forcing an early LMU timeout. Dockery had her hand in four of the Jayhawks’ five blocks in the opening frame, tying her previous career high in a single set.

Working to cut into the Jayhawks’ advantage, the Lions used kills from team leader Kathleen Luft and Kenna Crouse to narrow the gap to two points, 9-7, before Kansas let loose for a 4-0 run. The rally brought on another timeout from the visiting bench, in which Kansas responded with its fourth block immediately out of the pause.

In one quick motion, Kansas took over the set and arrived quickly at set point. McClinton’s fifth kill of the set sent KU to the set one victory, 25-13.

Set number two got out to a more even start as the teams went back-and-forth through the first six points. Consecutive kills from sophomore middle blockers Litara Keil put the Lions up, 8-6. LMU’s first multiple-point lead of the match was short lived after an attack error and another McClinton kill highlighted a 7-2 LMU run.

Unlike the first frame, both squads were swinging for less than a .150 attack percentage, allowing LMU the opportunity to keep the set close. Unlike any match yet this season, Jarmoc didn’t register her first kill until the Jayhawks’ 17th point of the second set.

KU’s offensive balance kicked in with clutch kills coming from redshirt junior outside hitter Catherine Carmichael and senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree. Both of Tolefree’s kills came after the 20-point mark. Although Kansas’ attack percentage fell to .133 in the frame, the Jayhawks benefited from seven LMU service errors in the second set alone – including the set winner. The 25-23 victory sent the teams to break with Kansas leading 2-0.

A pair of blocks from Carmichael and kills from McClinton got the third set started much like the opening one, forcing an LMU timeout with a 9-4 advantage in favor of the Jayhawks.

Seemingly impossible, the .417 hitting percentage the Jayhawks accumulated in the first set dwindled rapidly throughout the third frame. Four-straight KU attack errors saw the Lions climb ahead, 14-12, and prompted Bechard to use his first timeout of the afternoon.

The pause regrouped the Jayhawks as Tolefree and Carmichael knocked down kills to reclaim the slim lead, climbing back ahead 19-16. LMU never allowed KU firm footing, however, fighting back to tie the set each time. Facing the 22-20 deficit, the Jayhawks received one more kill from Jarmoc but two kills and a block ended the third set in favor of the Lions, 25-21.

Ready to put it away, Kansas came out firing in the fourth and final set. Dockery against set the tone at the net with help from blocking veterans Jarmoc and Tolefree, sparking the
Jayhawks to a 12-4 lead that they never relinquished.

With the uncharacteristic second and third sets behind them, KU’s attack percentage hovered around the .300 mark for much of the set. Armed with a confident lead, KU built an 18-10 advantage on well-placed kills from Dockery and Jarmoc in the back right corner of the court. Tolefree’s 10th kill of the match closed the set, 25-14, and sealed the Jayhawks’ eight-straight victory.

-Friday: vs. Loyola-Marymount, KU 3-1, 25-13, 15-23, 21-25, 25-14
-Saturday: vs. Xavier, 9:30 a.m. CT
-Sunday: vs. Notre Dame, 12 p.m. CT

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