🏐 Jayhawks Fall Late to Penn State in NCAA Second Round Matchup

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas Volleyball suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, falling 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-13, 13-15) to Penn State on Friday night in the Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena. 

With the defeat, Kansas has its season end with a record of 24-6 while Penn State improves to 23-8 and advances to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. 

“That was two hours and 40 minutes of really good volleyball, and it was really an honor to be part of that with this team,” said Kansas Head Coach Ray Bechard. “Congratulations to Penn State for moving on. I think we just need to reflect on a moment and all the joy and enthusiasm and good times that this team has given us. It felt more like an Elite Eight or Final Four match tonight than it did a second-round match. So, I couldn’t be prouder of our group.” 

The first set started out as an even battle, up through a 10-10 tie. Penn State then proceeded to go on a 6-0 run, triggering a pair of Kansas timeouts. Mykayla Myers was the one to end the Jayhawks’ scoring drought, knocking down her first kill of the match. Back-to-back kills from Ayah Elnady followed as Kansas began its climb back. The Nittany Lions kept the Jayhawks at bay up 20-15, but with Camryn Turner at the service line, Kansas went on a 3-0 run and forced Penn State to call a timeout at 20-18. 

Out of the timeout came two more Penn State points, but Myers won a huge battle at the net to give Kansas its 19th point. Penn State went up 23-19, but Elnady struck right after with her fourth kill of the match. The Nittany Lions were able to knock down back-to-back points, however, ending the set in a narrow 25-20 victory.

Penn State got up early in the second, but Kansas didn’t trail too far behind. Things got as close as 10-9, and Molly Schultz checked in to serve, which would spark a 3-0 run from Kansas and a Penn State timeout. Turner came up huge during this run with a solo block to tie it at 10-all, which sent the crowd in Horejsi into a frenzy. Penn State tried to make a comeback, but Kansas continued to lead by two until a Caroline Bien ace made it 16-13, and a Nittany Lion attacking error added another Kansas point. 

With Kansas up 18-13, Penn State used their second timeout in hopes of regaining the momentum. PSU knocked down their 14th point, but a Kansas sideout to follow made it 19-14. London Davis got the Jayhawks up to 20 with a huge kill, but Penn State started to heat up on the block and would close up the score 20-18, triggering Kansas’ first timeout of the set. 

Back-to-back Jayhawk points would get KU up 22-18, highlighted by a massive solo block by Toyosi Onabanjo. Point 23 would come from another Onabanjo block, this time assisted by Turner. Penn State was able to sideout, but followed it up with a service error that gave Kansas set point at 24-20. The Nittany Lions held on for one more, hitting off the Kansas block to keep the play alive, and they’d hang on for 24-22. Myers would be the one to end the set, knocking down a kill for the Jayhawks to take the set, 25-22.

Set three saw more back-and-forth flow, with seven ties coming up through 12-12. PSU was able to pull away a bit up 15-12, and the Jayhawks would be saved by the media timeout. Thanks to some big plays by Turner, Cooper and Elnady, Kansas began to close back in once again, and got within two, 18-16, when Turner stepped back to serve. Myers knocked it down at the net for point No. 17, but Penn State was able to hit back-to-back points in response, making Kansas call a timeout trailing by three, 20-17.

The Jayhawks scored three of the next four to get within one at 21-20, but Penn State fought to keep their lead, which would extend to 23-20 and trigger a second Kansas timeout. At Penn State’s set point, Onabanjo would come up big with a solo block, but the Nittany Lions knocked one far into the corner immediately after to win set three, 25-20 and take the 2-1 lead.

Cooper started off set four hot with three of the Jayhawks first four kills, with her counterpart Myers adding her seventh kill of the match to put herself on the board as well. Raegan Burns came up with two huge digs during this flow of play, recording her 10th and 11th of the match to keep the Kansas defense solid as well. Penn State led by one on multiple occasions, until the Jayhawks tied it up at 9-9 and Katie Dalton put Kansas in the lead with an ace.

Consecutive kills from Onabanjo and Cooper would push the Jayhawks into a two-point lead. Schultz checked in to serve at 13-11, and Cooper’s 20th kill Kansas extended the lead. The Nittany Lions were relieved by the media timeout after Myers and Cooper recorded a block to make it 15-11. From there, the Jayhawks would run away with the set, outscoring the Nittany Lions 10-2 to close out the set at 25-13 following back-to-back kills from Davis.

Set five started with seven different ties up through 7-7 and featured 11 ties overall, the last of which at 13-all. Kansas had a two-point lead at 11-9, but the next three points went to Penn State as the Nittany Lions regained the lead.

Cooper’s 29th kill of the game tied the set at 13-13, but a kill by the Nittany Lions gave them match point and forced a Kansas timeout. After the timeout, Penn State served up an ace to claim the set, 15-13, and the match, 3-2.

Cooper led the Jayhawks with a career-high 29 kills, which matches the Kansas school record set by Marina Garlington against Iowa State in 2008. She committed just three attack errors on the night and hit .464 in the match with 29 kills on 56 swings.

Davis also reached double figures with 13 kills, while Myers and Elnady added eight apiece. Turner had 54 assists, six digs and four kills, while Burns posted a team-high 14 digs and Elnady added 10. 

Kansas had eight blocks in the match, led by four from Onabanjo and three apiece from Turner and Myers.