No. 12 Kansas volleyball reaches 20th win at TCU

FORT WORTH, Texas – Kansas volleyball reached its 20th win of the season with a victory over TCU on Saturday, 3-1 (25-23, 25-17, 18-25, 25-17). It marks the sixth-straight season the 12th-ranked Jayhawks (20-4, 9-2 Big 12) have reached at least 20 wins.

“Our program has been at a high level of consistency over the last few years and it speaks highly of the effort that the student-athletes and coaches have put in each and every day,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “When you’re a member of the Big 12, reaching 20 wins is not an easy feat.”

With the absence of senior All-American outside hitter Madison Rigdon, who missed a start for the first time in 60 matches due to injury, sophomore Ashley Smith stepped up with a career-high 14 kills for KU on Saturday. Smith co-led the team in kills along with senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne’s 14 kills on a .385 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Jada Burse contributed 10 kills to round out a balanced effort from KU’s pin hitters.

“I was proud of the group and the way they rallied around each other,” Bechard said of playing without Rigdon. “Not having Madison out there meant that everybody had to do a little bit more. This isn’t a shock to us that Ashley would have this kind of production. We have seen good things out of her in practice. She has been pretty diligent in giving a good effort each and every day. Today was her turn to produce for us and we are pleased that what we saw in practice translated to competition.”

One of the roles that was filled in the absence of Rigdon was a serving opportunity for senior middle blocker Kayla Cheadle. Cheadle took to the service line to record a career-high two aces and serve a 6-0 KU run in the match-deciding fourth set. Not only was it a career-high in aces for Cheadle, it was the first time she had even attempted a serve since her freshman season in September 2014.

Fellow middle blocker, sophomore Zoe Hill, added seven kills and three blocks. KU’s duo of middle blockers — Cheadle and Hill — combined for 15 kills and eight block-assists.

Senior All-American setter Ainise Havili remained a consistent force for the Jayhawks with 51 assists and eight digs while playing in front of her hometown crowd in Fort Worth for the last time of her collegiate career. Havili also guided KU’s balanced offense of five players with seven or more kills to a team hitting percentage of .339.

TCU (10-13, 2-9) was led by a match-high 15 kills from Abigail Buckingham.

Cheadle recorded her first ace of the day to tie a close first set, 18-18. With the score tied for the 16th time of the set, 23-23, Havili fed Payne with assist for a first-ball kill to give KU set point, 24-23. Smith registered her first kill of the match on set point to clinch the 25-23 first-set win.

Kansas built on its momentum with a controlled effort during a 25-17 second-set win. The Jayhawks recorded a .552 hitting percentage in the second set, led by Payne’s five kills while Smith and Burse each contributed four. KU sided out on 15 of TCU’s 18 serves in the second set — an 83 percent clip. A late 4-0 KU run put the Jayhawks ahead, 20-13, and all but clinched a 2-0 match lead. Payne closed out the set strong with an ace for a 23-16 lead and a set-point kill, 25-17.

Kansas was not able to overcome early TCU leads of 4-1 and 7-3 in the third set, eventually dropping the set, 25-17. Despite Smith’s five-kill effort in the third, KU struggled to find sustained offensive production as TCU sided out KU on 16 of 19 opportunities.

In the fourth set, it was Kansas that jumped out to an early lead and didn’t look back. The Jayhawks rolled to an 11-3 lead after Cheadle registered her second ace during a 6-0 KU run. TCU didn’t give up on their home court, using a 5-0 run to come within three points, 17-14. But Kansas closed the match by scoring eight of the last 11 points for the 25-17 fourth-set win.  

Kansas hosts the season’s second edition of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown at Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Wednesday, Nov. 8 (6:30 p.m., JTV/ESPN3).

Senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon did not compete on Saturday against TCU due to injury; her status for returning to competition is day-to-day. Rigdon had started the last 59-straight matches for KU prior to Saturday’s match. The 2016 All-Big 12 First Team honoree leads Kansas in kills per set (3.59) during conference play this season.

Kansas reached 20 wins for the sixth-straight season and the 16th time in program history with Saturday’s four-set win over TCU. Since KU’s streak of 20-win seasons began in 2012, the Jayhawks have a 150-34 record.

Kansas and TCU met for the 13th time on Saturday afternoon. The Jayhawks lead the all-time series, 11-2, including six-straight wins. Since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012, KU has an 11-1 series advantage.

Coming off a road loss at No. 22 Iowa State last week, Kansas bounced back to defeat TCU on Saturday for its 14th-straight win following a loss. Since 2014, KU is 17-2 after a loss.

KU used its eighth different starting lineup of the season with defensive specialist Tori Miller, middle blocker Zoe Hill, right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, setter Ainise Havili, outside hitter Ashley Smith, middle blocker Kayla Cheadle and libero Allie Nelson.




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