🏐 Jayhawks Fall in Five-Set Thriller

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Despite setting a new single-game school record with 24 blocks, Kansas Volleyball dropped a five-set match to Oklahoma on Friday evening at the Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena.

Kansas (11-9, 3-6 Big 12) drops its sixth straight match, falling by set scores of 25-20, 16-25, 25-19, 23-25, 16-18. The Jayhawks and Sooners will return to the court in Lawrence on Saturday to conclude their Big 12 series. First serve of that match is set for 4 p.m.

The opening set saw four ties in the early going before Kansas took the lead for the first time at 7-6. The Jayhawks continued on a 6-0 run, capped off by a pair of solo blocks from Caroline Bien and London Davis which forced OU to call a timeout at 11-6. KU built the lead to six at 18-12 following another 3-0 run punctuated with a block by Davis. After calling their second timeout, OU scored four straight points to get within two at 22-20, but Caroline Crawford got a block at 23-20 and the Jayhawks scored the final three points to take the set 25-20.

Oklahoma quickly seized momentum in the second set, scoring the first six points and building a lead of 12-2, which forced Kansas to call both of their timeouts. The Jayhawks would use a 6-1 run to get within six at 17-11 following a service ace from Molly Schultz. OU called timeout, but it didn’t stop KU’s momentum as the Jayhawks scored the next two points and clawed within four at 17-13 before a service error ended the run. OU would then score three straight points and seven of the last nine to finish the set at 25-16.

The Jayhawks opened the third set with three straight points and built a 5-2 lead with three early kills from Caroline Bien. Two assist blocks from Crawford and Davis added to the lead, which reached 10-3 on a kill from Davis that forced OU to burn their first timeout. A 6-0 run would push the advantage to 14-3, which was when OU used their second timeout. The Sooners scored three straight out of the timeout, but they still found themselves trailing 23-12 late in the set after KU scored on four consecutive points. OU put together a rally with a 7-0 run, but it was Bien who ended it with a kill at 24-19. The Jayhawks would convert their first set point and take the 2-1 lead.

The fourth set was the most back-and-forth of the night, featuring 17 ties and three lead changes, the last coming as OU scored the final three points after KU took a 23-22 lead on a kill by Crawford. The Jayhawks continued their strong play at the net with four more blocks in the set, but five service errors contributed to the Sooners comeback.

Kansas built an early lead of 5-2 in the fifth set and pulled ahead 13-9, but OU continued to battle back. The Sooners got back-to-back blocks to tie the set at 13-all and forced extra points with ties at each point through 16. KU led 16-15 after a block by Davis and Jenny Mosser, but OU answered with back-to-back kills and a block to end the match.

Despite the setback, the Jayhawks set a new single-game school record with 24 blocks, including nine from Rachel Langs and Crawford and seven from Anezka Szabo. Their block total also matches the most in a game in NCAA Division I volleyball this season, tying a mark previously set by Chicago State against Grand Canyon. Kansas’ previous school record was 20.5 blocks, which also took place against Oklahoma during the 2014 season.

“Our initial line of defense was really, really good tonight, but I think they’d probably trade all of those stats for a better result,” Kansas Head Coach Ray Bechard said following the match. “When you have a lead in the fifth set, the inability to close that out is disappointing. At this point in the year, we want to be clean and execute, but you have to find a way to win matches like that. Now we have to get back at it tomorrow and try to create a different result.”

Kansas was led offensively by Bien, who finished with 14 kills and hit .214 for the night with five attack errors. She also had 14 digs and two blocks. Mosser had 11 kills, 16 digs and five blocks while Crawford had 10 kills. The Jayhawks hit .167 for the match with 58 kills. Camryn Turner led KU with 27 assists to go along with 11 digs while Elise McGhie added 17 assists and 13 digs. Lacey Angello had a team-high 27 digs for KU, helping the Jayhawks to an 89-to-87 advantage in digs.