Kansas Snaps Streak in Close Loss to Notre Dame, 3-1

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – An entire cast of Jayhawks teamed up to fight off set-point multiple times on Notre Dame’s home court – including five-straight points from Tournament MVP Caroline Jarmoc – to tie it up late in the fourth set, but KU ultimately fell to the Irish to conclude the Golden Dome Invitational, Sunday afternoon, 25-22, 24-26, 23-25, 27-29.

With a 2-1 mark over the weekend, Kansas (11-2) won the tiebreaker and was crowned tournament champion, the Jayhawks’ third title in four pre-conference invitationals.

In its first Sunday match of the season, Kansas and Notre Dame (7-5) proceeded to use any of the extra energy acquired from the extended weekend format to partake in a four-set battle that never saw a lead larger than five points. It opened with 10 ties in the first set and closed with the Jayhawks pushing their way to set-point two different times in the final frame.

“It was a dogfight and you know you’re going to get their best effort on their home floor during a Sunday afternoon match,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We fought hard at times, but there were times where we didn’t seize the moment and they did. When you fight back that hard, you need to get a couple of key stops and they came up with a couple more than we did.”

Without the benefit of a single kill in the second set, Jarmoc finished the match with 15 kills, giving her a team-best 39 on the weekend. That combined her with 1.73 blocks per set average earned the Calgary, Alberta, Canada native Tournament MVP honors for the third-straight weekend.

Sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton led the Jayhawks with 18 kills and added a pair of blocks in the defeat. In hitting efficiency, Kansas was paced by senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree’s .333 attack percentage and nine kills. Tolefree also earned a spot on the All-Tournament team after totaling 24 kills and 15 blocks on the weekend.

Notre Dame’s sophomore outside hitter Toni Alugbue led the floor with 20 kills as the Irish outhit the Jayhawks, .216 to .207. Kansas, however, held the advantage on the defensive end, posting more blocks and more digs than the home team. Junior libero Brianne Riley led the Jayhawks with 16 digs, but the defensive effort was solid on Sunday with three Jayhawks turning in double-digit digs, including a career-high 15 for freshman outside hitter Tiana Dockery.

No lead lasted long for either side as the first set saw a knotted score 10 different times. Down the stretch, as Kansas has focused on all season, the Jayhawks showed their ability to close. Tolefree and Jarmoc pounded out back-to-back kills to prompt a Notre Dame timeout at 23-21, but the Jayhawks would surrender only one more point. Outside hitters Dockery and Catherine Carmichael closed out the set with a pair of kills for the 25-22 win.

A pair of Carmichael kills and a service ace from Riley got the Jayhawks out to their biggest lead to that point, 8-4. The four-point margin remained consistent through much of the set before Jarmoc landed an ace in Notre Dame’s backcourt to stretch the advantage, 15-10.

McClinton matched her four kills from the first set quickly in the second. A pair of big swings from the Omaha, Neb., native doubled her kill total from set one and helped Kansas pull ahead, 18-13. Meanwhile, an unconventional kill that bounced off of Carmichael kicked KU out to a 20-16 advantage, but seemingly sparked an Irish rally. Four-straight UND points erased the Kansas lead, setting up a dramatic finish at 20-20.

After Carmichael’s fourth kill of the set snapped a 7-0 scoring rally by the Irish, the dramatic finish did indeed come. Three times Kansas fought off set point, tying the set at 24-24. Unfortunately for Kansas, consecutive attack errors sent the second set Notre Dame’s way to tie the match at a set apiece.

Out of the break, Dockery connected on a pair of early kills to push the Jayhawks out in front, 5-2, in the third set, but the frame played out to be anything but a blowout. From the 10-point mark, breathing room on either side was non-existent as the teams matched each other point for point.

Jarmoc, who didn’t register a kill in the second set, came back strong with four kills in the third, including a string of three that helped Kansas charge ahead, 15-13. Again Notre Dame rallied, breaking free for a crucial 7-3 run. Facing a 20-18 deficit, Bechard called a timeout to rally the Jayhawks. Jarmoc and Tolefree again teamed up for kills to battle off set point, but couldn’t hold off the Irish who claimed the 25-23 victory.

Down two sets to one for only the second time this season, the Jayhawks jumped in the fourth set ready to fight back. A block from Tolefree and Dockery immediately followed a kill from Dockery to start the fourth set played into the Jayhawks’ plan to establish momentum. Predictably, the Irish would have none of it and swung the advantage back, building leads as large as 15-10 and 17-12. Nevertheless, Kansas refused to surrender.

Facing a 17-12 deficit, Jarmoc took over. KU’s Canadian drilled three kills in a row and joined McClinton for back-to-back blocks to turn a five-point Notre Dame lead into a tied set, 18-18. The duo kept coming as another McClinton kill tied it up again at 23-23.

Armed with balance, Carmichael stepped it up in the final moments, notching back-to-back kills as Kansas shook off the pressure and twice reached set point – but fell short. A final kill from junior setter Maggie Brindock ended the second extended set, and the match, in Notre’s Dame favor, 29-27.

-Friday: vs. Loyola-Marymount: KU 3-1, 25-15, 25-23, 21-25, 25-14
-Saturday: vs. Xavier: KU 3-0, 25-15, 25-21, 25-17
-Sunday: vs. Notre Dame: ND 3-1, 22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 29-27

Kansas plays host to Creighton on Wed., Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m., in the final midweek contest before Big 12 Conference action begins at Texas Tech on Sat., Sept. 22.

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