Kansas Battles in Dramatic Four-Set Loss at Kansas State

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Five times in the final seven points, the University of Kansas volleyball team tied the score in the waning moments of the last Sunflower Showdown of the season before ultimately falling to Kansas State, Wednesday evening, 25-19, 18-25, 24-26, 26-28.

Kansas (14-14, 2-13) came out of the locker room ready to even the season series, handily claiming the opening set before going to the break tied at a set apiece with in-state rival Kansas State (20-10, 9-7). What followed was a dramatic back-and-forth battle to be expected from the pair of longtime rivals as KU erased a late four-point deficit in the third, only to fall by the slimmest margin possible and never trailed by more than two points in the fourth and final frame.

Now just 13 kills shy of becoming the Jayhawks’ all-time single-season kills leader, senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield led the Jayhawks with 15 kills and came up just one dig shy of her 10th double-double of the year. Senior setter Nicole Tate did, however, clench the fifth double-double of her season with 47 assists and 13 digs.

In another closely-contested matchup, the Jayhawks proved their ability to compete as they outhit (.191/.172), out-blocked (11.0/9.0), out-dug (73/66) and committed fewer errors (24/30) than the Wildcats, but came up short of closing out consecutive two-point sets.

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc set the standard on both sides of the ball on Wednesday night as she churned out 14 kills and just one error to finish with a .481 attack percentage, the highest on the floor. She also moved up the Jayhawks’ all-time leader board after providing the bulk of performance in the blocking column. Her eight block assists led all players and tied her for fourth all-time in a single-season (112). Behind her defensively was sophomore libero Brianne Riley who led all players with 20 digs on Wednesday.

The Wildcats were led by sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek’s 26 kills. Pelger tied Mayfield’s 15, while junior setter Caitlyn Donahue racked up 49 assists.

In the opening frame, an ace from freshman outside hitter Chelsea Albers capped a 4-0 Kansas start that forced KSU coach Suzie Fritz to use an early timeout. Out of the break, Kansas kept the pressure on as Mayfield and Albers connected on back-to-back kills to surge ahead, 8-3.

By the time Fritz used her next timeout, Albers and Mayfield had collected five combined kills as the Jayhawks built a 12-7 lead. By the end of the opening set, Mayfield would already have six of her 15 kills under her belt.

Although the Wildcats chipped away at the lead, a doubled-up blocking effort from Jarmoc and Tate kept the Jayhawks sitting with a five-point cushion that they maintained for the remainder of the set. KU fought off two-straight kills from Porubek with a pair of kills of their own from Mayfield and freshman outside hitter Sara McClinton, climbing ahead, 21-15.

Sophomore defensive specialist Jaime Mathieu connected on her fifth service ace of the year to bring Kansas to set point. Pelger would try to rally her squad with another kill for the Wildcats, but Jarmoc closed out a set with a sharp attack for the 25-19 win.

With one set to their credit, Kansas once again jumped out to a 4-0 lead using four-straight Wildcat attack errors to start the second set. Again, Kansas State used an early timeout in an effort to curb the visiting Jayhawks’ momentum. McClinton and Jarmoc, however, came out of the break on a mission and increased the Jayhawks’ lead, 7-2, forcing Fritz to use all of her timeouts just minutes into the frame.

Putting her team on her back, Porubek scored the next five points for the Wildcats to swing the advantage back to the home team, 10-9. The Kansas State rally sparked a point-trading battle between the rivals until three-straight points from KSU prompted a timeout from head coach Ray Bechard after the Jayhawks fell behind, 16-13.

After hitting .317 in the first set, KU put up a .171 attack percentage in the second and the Wildcats took advantage. Mayfield and junior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree each notched kills to keep the set within reach nearing the end of the set, but a kill from sophomore Courtney Traxson sent the teams to break tied at a set apiece with the 25-18 KSU victory.

For the third-straight set, the Jayhawks struck first, but the lopsided early lead wasn’t repeated as the teams immediately began trading points as a kill from Jarmoc and an error on the Wildcats knotted the score, 4-4, to start the third set. Tolefree rejected the first solo block of the match to keep the set rolling at a back-and-forth pace.

A service ace from Donahue and a kill from junior middle blocker Alex Muff highlighted a 4-0 run for Kansas State that prompted a timeout from the KU bench. Facing an 18-14 deficit, KU scored back-to-back points before the Wildcats benefitted from a kill by Traxson and a KU attack error to restore their four-point lead, 20-16.

Not about to surrender, Kansas roared back to cut the deficit to one, 22-21, before a KSU attack error evened the score. Tolefree knocked down a clutch kill to bring the Jayhawks to set point, 24-23, but three-straight points allowed the home team to escape with the third-set victory, 26-24.

A pair of attack errors and a kill from McClinton helped Kansas quickly snap out of the third-set loss as the Jayhawks took a 6-3 lead to start the fourth. Porubek struck again when she sent an incredible dig effort from Mathieu back over the net to win the point for Kansas State. Unfazed, the Jayhawks answered with a solid kill from Tolefree and tied the score at 10-10.

With a loud sea of purple against them, Kansas rallied back from a 16-14 hole to take the 17-16 lead, using an offensive spark supplied by Jarmoc’s 13th kill of the evening. Again Tolefree came up big with a kill before seniors Mayfield and Tate teamed up for a critical block to power Kansas to a 21-18 advantage. As expected, the high-powered KSU offense responded and in one of 13 times during the set, the teams found themselves tied.

Ignoring the crowd and facing match point, KU battled back to take a 25-24 lead. In one of the most dramatic scenes of the season, the teams would swap the lead seven different times tie the match at 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 points apiece before the Wildcats ultimately took the set – and the match – 28-26.

Kansas will wrap up its regular season on Saturday, Nov. 26, when they Jayhawks host Baylor at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center at 6:30 p.m. Jayhawk seniors Allison Mayfield, Nicole Tate and Lauren Hagan will be honored on the floor following the match.