Five-Set Heartbreaker Sends No. 9 Texas Past Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. –In an all-out battle for momentum, the University of Kansas volleyball team did what few others have done this season in an epic five-set loss to No. 9 Texas at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Saturday night, 20-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-16, 8-15.

Before Saturday night, Texas (16-4, 9-1) had only been forced to five sets three times this season. In fact, before facing Kansas (13-12, 1-11) for the second time in 2011, the Longhorns has only lost five sets total in Big 12 play before the Jayhawks took two from them on Saturday night.

In front of a nearly-packed house of 1,235, the Jayhawks outdid their opponent in nearly every category on the court as they recorded more kills (60/58), more assists (57/56) and hit for a higher percentage (.210/.209) than the visiting Big 12 leader. Kansas found ways to handily win sets two and four, while rallying for a 7-0 run facing Texas’ set point in the second set.

“We really needed a result tonight, but maybe the effort tonight will get us some results in the future,” head coach Ray Bechardsaid. “I thought we were the better team for half of the night and then game five is a toss up and that is when you really have to produce.”

Senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield became the Jayhawks’ all-time attempts leader on Saturday, a title that encompasses her role in the last four years. She also led the team with 17 kills, a pair of service aces and two blocks. She trailed only Longhorn sophomore Bailey Webster for the floor’s scoring leader as she racked up 20 points for the Jayhawks. Freshman Sara McClintonalso provided a powerful effort from the outside, cranking out a career-high 15 kills while rejecting three Longhorn attempts.

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmocbrought her trademark intensity, blocking six attempts. She also landed a critical ace and knocked down 11 kills on just 22 swings to lead her team with a .364 attack percentage.

“You keep giving the same effort, you will get a result sooner or later,” Bechard said. “It’s when you have an uneven effort and aren’t concentrating when bad things really happen. Effort is there, energy is there, we were a little bit light on the execution in game five, but we are still right in it each and every practice, and each and every match.”

On the other side of the net, the biggest news didn’t come from the night’s leader but instead an unfortunate incident. Last week’s Big 12 Rookie and Freshman of the Week, Khat Bell, left the match in the second set following an injury. She left after a perfect night of six kills and no errors. Webster led with 17 kills while teammates Rachael Adams and fellow freshman Haley Eckerman each posted 12.

In the first set, the Jayhawks played the Longhorns closely thanks to a great defensive effort by freshman outside hitter Chelsea Alberswho had two blocks in the set. Albers was also key on the offensive end, contributing three kills with a .600 hitting percentage. Mayfield led the Jayhawks on offense with five kills and a .250 hitting percentage. However, the Longhorns would pull away late with a 5-0 run to close out the set 25-20.

The Longhorns suffered their major blow when Bell had to be carried off with a leg injury early in the second set. The injury timeout seemed to slow down the Jayhawks momentum as Texas answered with two straight points to bring them within one, 7-6. The Jayhawks would steal the momentum with a 3-0 run of their own and widen their lead to four, 11-6. The effort by the Jayhawks forced Texas to call a timeout with the score, 15-11.

The Jayhawks continued to play strong for the rest of the set. McClinton set the pace for the Jayhawks on offense, leading the team with six kills and a .714 hitting percentage. She also lead the team on the defensive side, recording a team high two blocks. A service ace from sophomore setter Erin McNortonwould give the Jayhawks a seven-point lead, while Jarmoc would close out the set with a kill, 25-18.

In the third set, the Longhorns came out hot, jumping out to a 4-0 run and forced the Jayhawks to call an early timeout. The Jayhawks responded well out of the pause with a kill from Mayfield, who had two in the set, but the Longhorns would not be fazed, extending their lead to six, 14-8, and forcing KU to call another timeout.

Texas came out of the timeout with a 3-0 run and brought their lead to nine, 8-17, until a kill from junior middle blocker Taylor Tolfree, who had two kills in the set with a .333 hitting percentage, stopped the run. Despite several efforts from the Jayhawks to cut the lead, including a 7-0 run while facing set point, the Longhorns were able to finish off the set 25-19.

The Jayhawks got out hot in the fourth set, using a 4-0 start that forced an early Longhorn timeout. An ace from Mayfield would give the Jayhawks a five-point advantage, 6-1. A serving error from the Longhorns would spark a 3-0 run by the Jayhawks, to extend their lead to six, and force a Texas timeout.

The Jayhawks came out of the timeout strong, extending their run to five straight before it was ended by a Texas kill. The Jayhawks would continue to play well, and a kill from Mayfield, who led the team with five kills and a .333 hitting percentage in the frame, would give them a 19-11 lead. However, the Longhorns would finally respond with a 3-0 run to close the gap to five, 19-14, and force a KU timeout.

McClinton’s kill out of the timeout would stop the run and spark a 4-0 run from the Jayhawks, which extended their lead to 23-14. The Jayhawks would close out the set 25-16, forcing the fifth set only nationally-ranked foes Florida, Oklahoma and Iowa State have done this season.

In the decisive fifth set, the Longhorns started off fast by building a 4-1 lead. Out of a Kansas timeout, the Longhorns extended their lead, 9-4, before forcing another Jayhawk timeout.

Never willing to surrender the momentum, Kansas got a kill from Jarmoc, who hit for .500 in the set. Texas would respond and go on a 4-0 run to extend their lead to 12-6 and eventually close out the Jayhawks 15-8.

The Jayhawks receive a break from midweek action next week and resume play on the road against Texas Tech on Saturday, Nov. 12. Due to a scheduling conflict, the match time will be announced this Sunday.