Bechard Gets 950th Career Victory In Thriller Over Bluejays

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Career and season highs from several Jayhawks highlighted a five-set victory over the Creighton Bluejays, 27-25, 25-21, 21-25, 19-25, 15-13, on Wednesday evening at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, a night that also saw Kansas head coach Ray Bechard reach 950 career wins.

“Nine hundred and fifty means I’ve been coaching a long time and had a lot of good players,” said Bechard, who now owns a 950-264 career record. “But to beat a really good team in a situation like that is the most important thing.”

Three Jayhawks set career-highs in Kansas’ (12-2) five-set victory over Creighton (10-2) on Wednesday night. Redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc continued to stay hot and once again topped her career high in kills, leading the KU offense with 22, five more than her previous high. Junior setter Erin McNorton also had a career night, finishing with 67 assists for the match. McNorton is the first player to tally more than 60 assists since Nicole Tate recorded 64 against Oklahoma in 2009. Freshman outside hitter Tiana Dockery had the best all-around game of her career, recording her first collegiate double-double, with a career high 15 kills and 15 digs.

“That’s a very, very good team and when we needed to, we cleaned some things up in the fifth set,” Bechard said. “We made fewer errors and made winning plays. I was most disappointed with how we responded after winning the first two sets, but in the end we are happy with the outcome for sure.”

Sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton finished the match with a solid 17 kills and senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree also contributed a season high 12 kill effort to help round out the KU offensive attack. Defensively, Tolefree and Jarmoc led the team with four blocks each while junior libero Brianne Riley and senior defensive specialist Morgan Boub both set season highs in digs, with 33 and 16, respectively. Sophomore middle blocker Kelli Browning led the Creighton offense, racking up 15 kills and a .344 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Leah McNary and senior middle blocker Heather Thorson also added 14 kills each, to balance out the Bluejay offensive, while senior setter Megan Bober distributed 42 assists. Defensively the Bluejays totaled 20 team blocks, lead by Browning, who contributed on 11. Freshman outside hitter Melanie Jereb and freshman defensive specialist Kate Elman dug up 20 and 21 balls, respectively.

To open the contest, the teams matched each other blow-for-blow, resulting in 15 ties and five lead changes. After facing set point with Creighton leading 25-24, the Jayhawks put together three-straight points to take the set 27-25 on a kill from Jarmoc. Dockery led the KU offense in the set, recording a perfect five kills on five attempts. McClinton and Tolefree contributed four kills a piece in the set. McNorton effectively ran the Jayhawk offense, dishing 15 assists in set one.

The second set took on a very different feel. The back-and-forth play of the first set was replaced by a series of runs by both teams. Down 2-1, the Jayhawks would use a 4-0 run to build a 5-2 lead. The Bluejays would respond with a 5-0 run of their own to go ahead 7-5. After a 3-0 run, KU held an 8-7 advantage before another 4-0 Creighton run would give the Bluejays an 11-8 lead and force Bechard to call another timeout. The 15th-year Kansas head coach’s team would respond, using a 4-0 spurt to inch ahead 12-11 and prompt a timeout by the Creighton bench. The Jayhawks slowly built a lead out of the break, that they would keep for the remainder of the set, finally closing out the Bluejays, 25-21, on a kill from McClinton, who had four in the set. Dockery picked up right were she left off in the first set, contributing six kills in set two, matching Jarmoc’s six, to lead the KU offense. Jarmoc also led the KU defense, adding two solo blocks in the set. McNorton continued to facilitate the Kansas offense, adding 17 more assists in the set.

Creighton came out of the break hot, building an early 5-1 lead in the third set to force another Kansas timeout. The Jayhawks would respond, using a 4-0 run to even the score at seven, until another 4-0 run from the Bluejays put them back in front 11-7. CU wouldn’t look back, leading the rest of the way before taking the set 25-21 on a block from Thorson and McNary. Jarmoc led the KU offense in the set, finishing with six kills and a .333 hitting percentage. McNorton added 10 assists to her total and Boub contributed seven digs in the set.
The Bluejays carried that momentum into the fourth set, using a 5-0 run to take an early 7-3 lead. The Bluejays maintained their lead for the remainder of the set behind some impressive defense at the net, before closing out the set 25-19 on a kill from Bober. Tolefree led the KU offense in set four, recording five kills and a .714 hitting percentage. McNorton dished out 14 more assists in the set while Riley provided 10 digs.

Playing in their first five-set match of the 2012 season, the Jayhawks responded well. With the score locked at nine, Kansas used a 3-0 run to force a Bluejay timeout with a 12-9 lead. Two-straight points from Creighton would bring the Bluejays within one and force a timeout from the KU bench, with the Crimson and Blue ahead 12-11. The Jayhawks responded out of the break in the action and closed out the Bluejays in dramatic fashion, 15-13. Jarmoc led the KU offense in the fifth set with four kills and a .500 hitting percentage, while McNorton
continued to guide the KU offense, adding 10 more assists to her season-high mark.

Riley’s 33 digs moved her up to 1,160 for her career, which was enough to pass Jodi Oelschlager (1,153) for fifth on Kansas’ all-time list. Tolefree’s four total blocks gave her 337 in her KU career and moved her into sixth place on the all-time total blocks list, passing Anne Kreimer (335).

UP NEXT
The Jayhawks will take the court again on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m., when they travel to Lubbock and open Big 12 Conference play against Texas Tech at the United Spirit Arena.

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