🏐 Kansas Sweeps Oregon in Opening Round of NCAA Tournament
OMAHA, Neb. – The Kansas Jayhawks cruised to an opening-round win in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at D.J. Sokol Arena, topping Oregon in straight sets (25-21, 25-21, 25-22) to advance to the Round of 32.
The Jayhawks, who never once trailed against the Ducks, will play next on Friday against 14th-seeded Creighton. The Blue Jays swept Ole Miss in the nightcap.
In Thursday’s opening match, the Jayhawks were dominant throughout and were led by Caroline Bien, who was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year this week. Bien had a team-high 13 kills to go with nine digs. Caroline Crawford also shined in the victory, collecting 12 kills, four blocks and a pair of digs. Additionally, Camryn Turner had 30 assists and 11 digs, while Jenny Mosser had 10 kills and eight digs. Kennedy Farris led all Jayhawks with 17 digs.
“It looked like some pretty high-level volleyball from the Jayhawks,” Coach Ray Bechard said of his team’s performance. “We’ve been playing pretty well as of late, and the pass and serve game was good, and we had a good scouting report. Certainly, the Jayhawks stepped up communication tonight.”
The Jayhawks jumped out to a 6-3 lead, before Oregon eventually knotted the score at nine apiece. That was the last time Kansas wouldn’t lead the rest of the set. Bechard’s squad won the next three points to go up 12-9.
Kansas then led 15-10, 17-11, 21-14 and 23-16, before closing it out with a kill from Crawford to take the first set 25-19.
In that first set, Crawford had five kills and three blocks, while Bien had four digs and three kills. The Jayhawks hit .273 as a team in the first set, while Oregon hit .068.
In the second set, Kansas again jumped out to an early lead, going up 6-3 off an ace from Crawford. A close battle ensued from there with Oregon closing it to one at 12-11. But Kansas won the next two points to go up 14-11 and keep its lead.
Oregon fought back and got it to one at 17-16. But Kansas won the next four points to go up 21-16 and grab control. From there, the Jayhawks led 24-19 before Oregon won two straight points to get it to 24-21. But an Oregon service error gave the set to the Jayhawks for a 2-0 lead.
The third set was more of the same with a tight start. But Oregon was never able to take a lead and the Jayhawks stayed out in front after an early 6-6 tie.
Leading 17-13, Oregon won three straight points to get it to a one-point set. But Bechard called a timeout to regroup and it worked.
Kansas won the next four points to go up 21-16. Oregon won the next three to get it to 21-19, but Crawford came up with a kill to get it to 22-19. Leading 24-22, an attack error from Oregon gave Kansas the final point of the match to secure its three-set victory.
“It was a joy to watch,” Bechard said. “We talked a little bit about pressure the last two weekends where we had to win to get in the tournament. Why would we worry about pressure now? I told them to go enjoy it. Very few teams get to experience this. I think the vibe has been really good since our name was put on the board.”
Crawford, who had a strong match throughout, was especially strong early in the match, which Bechard said set the right tone for the team for the entire night.
“Crawford took over the match early,” Bechard said. “She dominated early. She changed their mentality offensively by what she did. That was the biggest influence.”
Thursday’s match marked the first NCAA tournament match for the Jayhawks since 2017. It’s the program’s first NCAA win since topping Samford in 2016, before falling to Creighton in five sets in the second round. Friday’s match will serve as a rematch of the 2016 thriller.