No. 21 Kansas Suffers First Big 12 Loss at No. 9 Texas

AUSTIN, Texas – Another team-leading effort from redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael pushed Kansas to a 24-24 mark in the third set, but couldn’t upend No. 9 Texas’ streak of 37-straight home conference wins in the battle of the Big 12 unbeatens, Friday evening at the Gregory Gymnasium, 14-25, 22-25, 24-26.

No. 21 Kansas (17-3, 5-1) surrendered its first loss in conference play, and first sweep of the season, to a ninth-ranked Texas (15-3, 7-0) team that was out to defend a home win streak in conference play that has not been tampered with since Oct. 29. 2008.

The Jayhawks, however, wouldn’t leave without a fight as they became the only team aside from No. 17 Kansas State to chalk up 24 points in a set against the Longhorns, who have yet to lose a set in league action. In sets two and three, the Jayhawks beat the Longhorns to the 20-point mark.

“Our goal was to get it to 20-20 games and put some pressure on them,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “As an undefeated Big 12 team playing at home, we felt like we might get the type of response we wanted. As it turned out, they made more plays than us. It was unfortunate that we got off to a slow start in the first set, but sets two and three were very competitive. We found some things that we need to do the next time we see them. Overall, there were some good things out there tonight.”

Carmichael put on another inspired performance, tying the 2011 AVCA Freshman of the Year, Texas sophomore Haley Eckerman, for the evening’s lead with 16 kills. Redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc trailed her with nine kills and a team-high three blocks, while sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton rounded out the leaders with seven kills.
On the defensive side, junior libero Brianne Riley led the floor with 15 digs – making her the only player in Jayhawk history to record 400-plus digs in three different seasons. The Naperville, Ill., native now has 409 digs on the year and needs only 31 more to move into third all-time on KU’s career list.

For Texas, Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, junior Bailey Webster, was the only other player to record double-digit kills on Friday. She tallied 10 join Eckerman on the leaderboard. Sophomore middle blocker Khat Bell led the Longhorn defense with 10 blocks. UT out-blocked the Jayhawks 11-5 on the night, while KU held the sizable dig advantage, 50-38.

In the opening set, Kansas received its first five points via five different Jayhawks as the visitors worked to keep pace. Back-to-back blocks from the best blocking team in the country, however, saw Texas climb ahead, 10-5. Kills from Bell and Eckerman strengthened the Texas lead and prompted a KU timeout down, 13-6.

An impressive rally that saw freshman outside hitter Tiana Dockery and Riley hit the floor to keep the ball up sparked a 4-0 Kansas scoring run. Jarmoc and junior setter Erin McNorton went up to block a shot from Webster, forcing a timeout from the Texas bench as the Jayhawks pulled within four, 15-11. Another Carmichael kill kept the score within four, until Texas broke out a 4-0 run of its own. Hitting at a .500 clip, the Longhorns moved ahead, 20-12. The home team committed just two errors in the opening frame to pull away, 25-14.

In the second set, KU capitalized on a pair of Texas errors and a joint block effort from Jarmoc and McClinton to jump out to a 6-3 advantage. Texas fought back with a 5-0 run, but KU kept coming as consecutive kills from McClinton kept the Jayhawks within striking distance. Kills from senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree and Carmichael, coupled with an attack error, returned the lead to the Jayhawks for the fourth time not yet halfway through the set, 12-11.

Just as she did against the Sooners only two nights before, Carmichael stayed hot, racking up three kills in five points to fuel the Kansas offense. Another UT attack error forced Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott’s hand as he signaled for timeout with the Jayhawks leading, 18-15.

Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Albers checked into the game and quickly registered a kill and a block assist to make the Jayhawks the first to the 20-point barrier, 20-19, but Texas pushed back. Although Kansas would get a clutch kill from Dockery to stay within a point, a pair of late blocks and a final kill from Bell saw KU fall, 25-22, sending the Jayhawks to the break trailing 0-2 for the first time this season.

After leading the team again in the second set with four kills, Carmichael helped the Jayhawks get out to strong start in the third frame. She posted two kills and a solo block to fire Kansas out to a 6-4 lead before Tolefree joined her with back-to-back kills to keep her team out front, 11-9.

Fighting to for a fourth set, the Jayhawks kept coming as Jarmoc and Dockery planted for another block and Carmichael churned out two more kills to climb ahead, 17-15, out of the media timeout. For the second time in as many sets, the Jayhawks won the race to the 20-point mark.

McClinton came on strong in the final moments of the third frame, chalking up three kills to spark a 4-1 rally that saw Kansas pull ahead, 21-18, but it was Carmichael that drove the momentum. She ripped kills that saw KU score its 23rd and 24th points.

Armed with a highly-charged home crowd of 2,280, Texas staved off the KU pressure. One final block from Bell and sophomore Madelyn Hutson ended the set – and the match – 26-24.

No. 21 Kansas comes home to welcome rival, No. 17 Kansas State, Wednesday night at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m. and will be televised live on Metro Sports. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.