Kansas Forces Fourth Set, Falls at Texas A&M, 3-1

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – A historical performance from senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield and another out-blocking effort from the Jayhawks helped the University of Kansas volleyball team force a fourth set at Texas A&M before falling to the Aggies, 21-25, 20-25, 26-24, 20-25.

In front of nearly 1,500 Aggie fans in the last time the two teams will face each other as Big 12 Conference foes, Kansas (13-10, 1-9) kept the home team within reach for much of the match, before grinding out a dramatic 26-24 win to force a fourth set. The effort couldn’t take down a Texas A&M (17-5, 6-3) team who has now lost just one home contest on the year.

With her first kill in the third set, Mayfield moved into fifth all-time in Kansas volleyball history. After leading the Jayhawks against the Aggies with 15 kills, she finished Sunday’s match with 1,177 career kills.

Junior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree recorded three solo blocks against the Aggies, just two shy of the KU single-match record in a four-set contest. Her team-leading five blocks helped her team out-block its Big 12 opponent for the sixth time in 10 conference matches this season as KU amassed 11 blocks to counteract Texas A&M’s seven.

Freshman outside hitter Sara McClinton tied her career-high with 14 kills while swinging for a team-high .400 attack percentage. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc put three Jayhawks in double-figures with 11 kills.

But it was the Aggies who would prevail, using senior outside hitter Kelsey Black’s 17 kills. Sophomore setter Allie Sawatzky, however, handed out the most damage with a double-double that included 13 kills and 47 assists. Although Kansas committed fewer errors (18/22), the Aggies cranked out 18 more kills on a .287 attack percentage.

A service ace from Mayfield handed Kansas its first lead in the early minutes of the opening set, 4-3. Freshman outside hitter Chelsea Albers connected on her first kill of the afternoon to kickoff what would be a back-and-forth first set until Black chipped in her first kill, sparking a 10-7 Aggie lead.

Unfazed, the Jayhawks marched right back when a sharp Tolefree kill brought her team within one once again, before an Aggie attack error knotted the score, 14-14. An attack error on the Jayhawks’ side and another kill from Black prompted a timeout from head coach Ray Bechard. Although the Aggies would notch the first point out of the break to go ahead, 19-15, the Jayhawks mounted a 4-0 run on the heels of a service ace from junior defensive specialist Morgan Boub.

After a TAMU timeout, Kansas came out of the break to take the next point before the Aggies rallied for the 23-20 lead. Jarmoc launched a kill to cut into the deficit, but a Jayhawk attack error ended the set in favor of the Aggies, 25-21.

Tolefree ripped a kill to open the second set, but the Aggies answered with a 5-1 run to take the early lead. Jarmoc and McClinton teamed up for a block to creep back up on the Aggies. McClinton’s real contribution in the second set, however, came from her swing as she led the floor with six kills in the set. Nevertheless, kills from Aggie setter Allie Sawatzky and Elise Hendrickson pushed Texas A&M ahead, 11-7, forcing a Kansas timeout.

A pair of Aggie service errors kept the Jayhawks within reach. Facing a 19-14 deficit, Kansas stepped up at the net. Sophomore setter Erin McNorton and Tolefree netted back-to-back solo blocks to cut the Aggie lead to three, 19-16. Although Kansas kept pace, a KU error would send the match to break with the Aggies holding the two-set lead.

The Jayhawks jumped out to a 7-5 lead to start the third set, using a kill from Mayfield. Her seventh of the match put moved the senior into No. 6 all-time in career kills in Jayhawk history. She and Jarmoc would combine for 10 kills in a third set that saw Kansas outhit the home team for the first time on the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Aggies kicked their lead out to 14-11, and Bechard signaled for the timeout. Ignoring the rowdy home crowd, Kansas pressed on. McClinton knocked down a kill, while senior setter Nicole Tate and Jarmoc joined forces for a block. A dig-over kill from Jarmoc knotted the score at 19-19, to prompt Aggie coach Laurie Crobelli to ask for the timeout.

Second in the Big 12 in service aces as a team, Texas A&M junior Alisia Kastmo dropped in a clutch service ace to take the lead of out a Jayhawk timeout. The Kansas blockers didn’t care as the Jayhawks took control of a thrilling end to the third set. Tate and Tolefree teamed up for two more blocks win the third, 26-24.

Three different Jayhawks cranked out kills to power KU to the 4-1 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth set. McClinton racked up three of the team’s first seven points to build the Jayhawks’ advantage, 7-4.

Texas A&M stormed back, powered by blocks from Kastmo and junior Lindsey Miller to spark a 9-3 run. With the momentum back in the hands of the Aggies, Bechard asked for the timeout. After Kastmo served her third ace of the day, Bechard signaled for another as his team trailed, 16-10.

Disregarding the scoreboard, Jarmoc swung for a big kill to cut the Aggie lead to four while she and McClinton rejected an Aggie attack to shrink the Texas A&M lead, 18-15. Although the Jayhawks never seem to let the Aggies own the pace of the set, they managed to stretch their lead over the visiting Crimson and Blue, 21-16.

Tolefree stepped up for her third solo block of the match, but it wouldn’t be enough. A well-executed kill from Mayfield on the Aggies’ match point was answered by a kill from Miller to end the match, 25-20.

The Jayhawks return home next week for back-to-back matches at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. Kansas opens the week with a televised Wednesday match against rival Missouri. Fans should note that the match time has been moved up to 6 p.m. On Saturday, Kansas welcomes No. 9 Texas to its home floor.