Kansas Edged by Missouri in Closely-Contested Border Showdown, 3-1

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Putting on arguably its best performance at home this season, the University of Kansas volleyball team was two points shy of winning both sets one and two, claimed set three by the same margin before ultimately falling in the fourth during a classic battle between rivals, at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Wednesday night, 24-26, 23-25, 25-23, 19-25.

Kansas (13-11, 1-10) has consistently kept pace with its opponents on the stat sheet throughout the season, but Wednesday night showcased the Jayhawks’ current fight to convert a good night on paper into a victory on the court.

“We’re practicing as hard and as well as we have all year, and it’s tough when you don’t see results,” head coach Ray Bechardsaid. “That’s what we’re dealing with. We’ll continue to work hard and try to put them in situations where execution, not just effort, is going to be the key.”

The effort was there on a night where the scoreboard showed a tie 19 different times in four sets amongst seven lead changes. Kansas trailed its rival by only three in both the kills (57/54) and assist (59/56) columns, while out-blocking the Tigers (10.0/7.5). Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, back-to-back two-point losses to start the match put the home team in a hole they couldn’t claw out of. After storming out to a pair of six-point leads in the third set, KU surrendered a six-point deficit in a slow start to the fourth that would eventually lead to its demise.

“There’s an element of learning how to execute in key times at the end of the game,” head coach Ray Bechardsaid. “At 22-all, 23-all, they made better plays two out of the three games. When you get down, 2-0, or where ever, you can’t afford a slow start at any time.”

Senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield, now fifth all-time in career kills at KU, lead the offense with 16 kills, a service ace and a block assist. She was joined on the leader board by a pair of red-hot middle blockers in junior Tayler Tolefree and Caroline Jarmoc. Tolefree blasted 14 kills and five blocks, while Jarmoc racked up eight kills using a .312 attack percentage and punched out four blocks. Freshman outside hitter Chelsea Albersled Kansas with a .353 attack percentage.

Missouri (19-9, 5-6) received standout performances from sophomore Lisa Henning, who led the floor with 22 kills. Sophomore setter Molly Kreklow earned the evening only double-double with 51 assists and 15 digs.

In the first set, both teams traded points early on as Kansas was able to grab its first lead at 7-6. That slim margin would not last for long as Mizzou would get back that lead at 10-9 and go up as much as three points until Bechard’s crew was able to close the gap, 18-17, and tie it at 22-all on a solo block by senior setter Nicole Tate. A service error on MU’s set point tied the score again, but the Jayhawks were not able to capitalize as the Tigers reeled off two straight points to take the first set 26-24.

Kansas got off to a quick 3-2 lead in the second set, but that lead would quickly shift hands as MU scored four-straight points to go ahead, 11-9. Both teams would see 13 ties and five lead changes throughout the second set until Missouri took their final lead of the set at 19-18. An off-the-wall save by sophomore defensive specialist Jaime Mathieuwas not enough as MU would take a 21-19 lead and then go onto to take a 2-0 set lead with the 25-23 set victory.

Kansas came out in the third set and quickly grabbed a 6-2 lead, the Jayhawks’ largest of the match to that point, and would maintain a comfortable lead for the better part of the set. The Jayhawks reached the 20-point plateau with a five-point lead, but saw Missouri storm back with three-straight points to make it 21-18. The Tigers refused to go away, tying things up at 24-23, but Kansas closed MU out, taking its first set of the match 25-23.

Missouri came out in the fourth set and grabbed an early 4-1 advantage. Kansas would see that lead stretched to a five-point margin at 7-2. The Tigers would have breathing room through the heart of the set until an Erin McNortonace cut the lead to 17-12.

The Jayhawks would mount a short comeback of their, using a 4-0 run to close the gap, 20-16. Kansas and Mizzou would trade points after that juncture until two crucial points by the visitors made it 23-18. Missouri would close it out from there by a final fourth set score of 25-19.

The Jayhawks stay at home this Saturday, as Kansas welcomes No. 9 Texas to its home floor. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.