No. 21 Kansas Wins Thriller at Oklahoma, 3-2

NORMAN, Okla. – Fighting to stay alive late in the fourth set, redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael blasted three kills in the final five points to force a fifth set and went on to fire a career-high 18 kills on the night, sending No. 21 Kansas past Oklahoma in the McCasland Field House, Wednesday evening, 25-16, 21-25, 13-25, 25-21, 15-10.

Kansas (17-2, 5-0) knocked off Oklahoma (14-6, 3-2) to move to 17-2 overall and 5-0 in conference play – both for the first time in program history. The historically-best start adds to the list of firsts and accomplishments the 2012 team is becoming known for as KU moved to 4-0 in five-set matches and 4-0 against teams in the top-25 or receiving votes.

“This team is pretty resilient,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Obviously, you don’t want to go down 2-1 on the road, but if you are, you have to come up with a plan. They did and they executed it.”

After claiming the first set against the Big 12’s third-place team, the Jayhawks found themselves behind 2-1. Down 18-15 in the fourth set, Kansas refused to lose, winning eight of nine points, including the three late kills from Carmichael, to steal the momentum, and ultimately, the fourth set.

Unblemished in the five-set matches, Kansas sprinted out to an 8-1 advantage to rob the remainder of the momentum to start the fifth set. Carmichael, again, was clutch – cranking out five kills in the final frame, pushing Kansas to a 15-10 victory in the decisive set.

“It’s so awesome,” Bechard said. “If everybody could know where she started four years ago, I’m so proud of that kid and she just keeps getting better and better. She’s a legitimate Big 12 attacker. You can see her growing more confident every match. We’re really proud of her.”

The offense provided only part of the story on Wednesday as junior libero Brianne Riley dug a career-high 43 digs. Alongside her was fellow junior, setter Erin McNorton, who collected her sixth double-double using 54 assists and a career-high 22 digs. As a unit, Kansas posted a season-best 98 digs – the second-most by a Big 12 team this season.

Aside from Carmichael’s 18, three more Jayhawks posted double-digit kills. Freshman outside hitter Tiana Dockery (14), sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton (12) and redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc (11) each recorded double digits, an offensive balance KU has put together four times this season.
Second only to KU’s Jarmoc in attack percentage in the Big 12, junior middle blocker Sallie McLaurin led Oklahoma with 18 kills, while OU’s all-time digs leader Maria Fernanda led with 26 digs.

Riley, the Jayhawk ace leader, put one down to help the visitors jump out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set. Although back-to-back kills for senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree and Jarmoc pushed KU ahead to a five-point lead, the next point showcased a collective effort of defensive hustle. McNorton dove to get one arm between the floor and an OU attack, keeping the ball alive for freshman outside hitter Tiana Dockery to seal the rally with a kill. Another Jarmoc kill later, the Jayhawks found themselves surging ahead, 18-11.

Kills from McClinton and Tolefree brought the Jayhawks to set point, and a Sooner attack error closed out the opening frame in KU’s favor, 25-16. The first-set win marked the 17th time in 19 matches KU has jumped out to a 1-0 lead in 2012.

Jarmoc led the offense with five kills in the first set, followed closely by four from fellow middle blocker, senior Tayler Tolefree. While hitting .233 as a team in the first, the Jayhawks held OU to a .077 attack percentage.

The second set started with both teams holding each other accountable, keeping the score close. The Sooners answered a solo block from Tolefree with one of their own to knot the score, 8-8, in the middle of a 4-0 run. A kill from freshman middle blocker Kierra Holst handed Oklahoma its first lead since the 1-0 mark in the first set, 9-8.
Without missing a beat, Dockery and Carmichael kicked off a 4-0 Jayhawk rally in response to reclaim the lead, 12-10, and force an Oklahoma timeout. As expected, the second-ranked blocking team in the league used the block to its advantage as OU took its largest lead of the night to that point, 18-15.

Kansas received a spark from sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Albers, who checked in and registered a kill on her first swing, but the Sooners raced out to set point, 24-18. Still fighting, KU fought off set point with a 3-0 run, prompting an Oklahoma timeout at 24-21. A kill from OU’s senior outside hitter Morgan Reynolds sent the match to break tied at a set apiece.

Looking to break out of a rare -.021 hitting slump as a team in the third frame, KU used a well-placed push from Dockery and a pair of blocks from Jarmoc to find ways to score. The Sooners, hitting over .200 for the first time for the evening, were able to find more as they built the only double-digit lead of the match, 21-11. An Albers kill fought off set point once, but the Sooners pulled away, 25-13.

A block, an ace and a kill showcased KU’s talents as the Jayhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set, forcing an early Oklahoma timeout. The teams proceeded to trade points until consecutive kills from Tolefree handed KU the slim lead, 9-7. Although the Sooners put together a 4-0 to cause a Kansas timeout, the score stayed within a three-point window.

McClinton rattled off a pair of kills and, coupled with a bad set on the OU side, the Jayhawks pulled within one, 18-17. After an Oklahoma timeout, Dockery blasted a kill to tie the score.

In the crucial moments, the redshirt juniors stepped up. Jarmoc knocked down her first kill since the second set and put Kansas ahead, 22-19, and stepped up again for a solo block before Carmichael drilled the kills to send the match to a fifth set, 25-21.

The duo didn’t stop, rolling right into the fifth set with a combined three kills in the first four points to grab momentum, 4-0. Jarmoc teamed with McNorton for the block and Carmichael collected kill No. 15 to sprint ahead, 7-1. The Sooners rallied to close the gap, 11-8, but the Jayhawks were unreachable. Carmichael and Dockery brought Kansas to match point and one final kill from Jarmoc sealed the win, 15-10.

No. 21 Kansas stays on the road, traveling to Austin, Texas to face the No. 9 Texas Longhorns on Friday. First serve is set for 7:30 p.m. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.