Jayhawks Come Up Short in Conference Opener at Kansas State

MANHATTAN, Kan. –¬†Trailing 2-0 after the first two sets, the Kansas volleyball team battled back to win the third frame but lost a 10-point lead in the fourth set to fall 3-1 (25-15, 25-20, 23-25, 31-29) at Kansas State Wednesday night in both teams’ Big 12 Conference opener.

KU fell to 9-3 with the loss, while K-State improved its record to 6-5.

Following the break and down two sets, Kansas came into set three with renewed confidence. With the score tied at 3-3, the Jayhawks rattled off six unanswered points with the help of three Karina Garlington kills to gain a lead it would not relinquish for the remainder of the set.

The Wildcats did not give up however, threatening at 11-10 following a 4-0 run, but KU responded right back with four-straight points of its own. KSU put pressure on Kansas again in the next sequence of plays as it eventually tied the set at 17-17. KU took advantage of two Kansas State errors and used a Nicole Tate service ace to pull ahead one last time as it held on to win 25-23.

In the fourth set, Kansas used a 10-3 run early in the frame to gain an 18-8 advantage, its largest lead of the set. The rally would be for not though as Kansas State scored six-straight points to steal back the momentum. The shift in play ultimately helped the Wildcats, who were trailing 23-18, go off on a 7-1 run to take its first lead of the set at 25-24. The teams went back and forth until KSU won 31-29 following a KU attack error and then a Wildcat block.

“We overcame a slow start and put ourselves in a position to do something special,” said head coach Ray Bechard, who remains one win shy of 200 career victories at Kansas. “When you’re in a position to finalize a set, we have to do it. But the momentum swung and we came up a couple of plays short.”

Junior Allison Mayfield led all players with 18 kills. She also added 10 digs for her second double-double of the season. Freshman libero Brianne Riley led four Jayhawks in double figure digs recording 18 while chipping in six assists. Junior setter Nicole Tate and sophomore defensive specialist Morgan Boub added 11 and 10 digs, respectively.

KU came out slow in the first set and struggled on offense against the Wildcats’ blocking regime as it dropped the opening frame 25-15.

Little by little the Jayhawks began to find their stride in set two as the score remained close for much of the frame. Neither team led by more than three points until the final five tallies. KU gained an early one-point lead on several occasions but after the Wildcats knotted the score at 9-9, Kansas was never able to gain the upper hand despite knotting the score five more times.

Kansas volleyball is back at home for its Big 12 Conference home-opener on Saturday, Sept. 18 to host Texas A&M at 6:30 p.m.