Kansas Falls in Four After Mounting Comeback at Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. –Powered by a family bond that strengthened the past week, the University of Kansas volleyball team fought through a two-set deficit, but couldn’t fend off rival Missouri, Wednesday night at the Hearnes Center, 21-25, 24-26, 25-20, 26-28.

Head coach Ray Bechardspent the morning at a funeral service for his mother, before traveling separately to Missouri to join his team. Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, the Jayhawks found strength in pain and bonded throughout a difficult time for their head coach. That cohesive team effort helped Kansas (12-6, 0-5) fight its way back from an 0-2 hole, but the Jayhawks came up just two points shy of forcing a fifth set at Missouri (15-7, 2-4).

One match after breaking onto the Kansas All-Time Top-10 in career kills list, senior outside hitter Allison Mayfieldpassed former Jayhawk Mary Beth Albrecht to become fifth-all time on the program’s all-time career total attempts list, as she led the offense with 16 kills.

In a match that featured 37 tied scores or lead changes, Mayfield led a balanced attack that included three Jayhawks with double-digit kills as redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc(15) and freshman outside hitter Sara McClinton (10) each posted solid nights. For the second-straight Big 12 Conference match, Kansas posted a better attack percentage (.212/.191) and more blocks (13.0/10.0) than their opponent, who went on to claim the victory.

On the defensive end, Jarmoc and fellow middle blocker, junior Tayler Tolefree, combined for 12 blocks as Tolefree led both teams with seven. Freshmen outside hitters Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton each posted four blocks apiece, while sophomore libero Brianne Rileyput forth her seventh 20-dig performance of the season. She led both teams with 24 digs.

For the Tigers, sophomore Lisa Henning tied a career-high with 27 kills on Wednesday, while the Jayhawks held the Big 12’s leader in attack percentage, senior Brittney Brimmage, to eight kills and a .222 attack percentage.

A block assist from Mayfield and Jarmoc coupled with a pair of Jarmoc kills erased an early 3-1 deficit in the opening set and handed Kansas the 4-3 advantage. As the Tigers responded with a 7-1 run, the Jayhawks tried to provide an answer of their own. A kill from McClinton backed by a service ace from Riley closed the gap, 8-11.

Brimmage landed a kill and pushed the Tigers’ lead back to five. Although Kansas would hold Brimmage to a -.200 attack percentage in the first set, her teammates found a way to edge take the 1-0 lead.

Coming out of a timeout, Tolefree and Mayfield connected on back-to-back kills to fire up the Kansas offense. A Tiger error cut their lead to three, and Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow signaled for the timeout. Four different Jayhawks posted blocks in the opening frame and another from McClinton and Tolefree cut the MU lead to two, 17-19, but Mizzou notched two-straight points to bring on another Kansas timeout.

Again Kansas showed fire out of the break in the action, when Jarmoc threw down a kill and junior defensive specialist Morgan Boubcranked out a service ace to cut the Tiger lead to two. Back-to-back kills closed the set in Missouri’s favor, however, 21-25.

Stepping up under pressure in the second set, Jarmoc and Chelsea Albersteamed up for a block and continued to apply pressure when Mayfield attacked from the back row to keep the set within a point, 12-13. The visiting Jayhawks refused to back off, keeping the set within a point as Kreklow signaled for the timeout with the 19-18 lead. Ignoring the pause, Kansas came out of the break to take the 21-20 lead.

The rivals went back-and-forth until Missouri reached set point, 24-23. Bechard called a timeout to rally his team, who came back with another kill by Jarmoc. It wasn’t enough as sophomore setter Molly Kreklow’s first kill of the night sealed the second set for MU, 26-24.

Senior Nicole Tate, who took over at setter in the middle of the second set, rejected her first block of the season when she and Jarmoc shut down a Tiger attack to power the Jayhawks to an early 4-3 edge. Again Missouri found a way to regain the early lead in the third set. A long rally resulted in a pair of impressive digs on both sides of the net, before a heads up attack by Jarmoc and another service ace on her part brought the Jayhawks within one.

Mayfield’s 10th kill of the match, and Albers’ first, swung the momentum back to the Jayhawks, who grabbed the 11-9 lead and forced a Missouri timeout. Out of the break, Kansas brought on an MU error before Tolefree and Albers combined for a crucial block, handing the Jayhawks their biggest lead of the evening, 13-9.

Kansas was rolling and seemed to be sucking up the momentum from the crowd of more than 2,600. Two more big swings for Jarmoc and another combined blocking effort for her and Tate propelled Kansas out to an 18-13 lead. Before the third set was over both Jarmoc and Mayfield would be in double-digit kill figures.

Tate pulled off a textbook, left-handed attack to keep the Jayhawks in front, 21-19. Although the home team resisted, Kansas wasn’t backing down. McClinton and Mayfield knocked down consecutive kills before Tolefree and Albers slammed down a block to win the set, 25-20.

After cutting the Missouri lead in half, the Kansas determination was crystal clear. Riley opened the fourth set with a service ace to spark Kansas out to a 7-2 lead. Mayfield and Jarmoc continued to pound the ball, as the duo and Albers chipped in to build their lead, 11-6. McClinton added to the effort when her fifth solo block of the year backed by her 10th kill of the match put her team ahead, 16-11.

The Tigers responded, rallying to cut the deficit to tie the score, 20-20. Henning continued her career-best night when her 26th kill of the match gave the Tigers their first lead of the set.

Tate landed another kill to bring the Jayhawks to match point before Missouri forced a Jayhawk error to tie up, 24-24. Again the teams would trade points until they locked it up, 26-26. Despite an intense fight, Kansas couldn’t hold off the back-to-back kills that ended the match in favor of its rival. Missouri took the final set, 28-26.

UP NEXT
The Jayhawks will stay on the road for their first meeting of the season with No. 22 Oklahoma, Saturday night. First serve has been changed from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m.