No. 11 Kansas volleyball defeats West Virginia, 3-1
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Middle blocker Mmachi Nwoke provided a late spark for No. 11 Kansas volleyball in a four-set road victory at West Virginia on Wednesday night at WVU Coliseum (28-26, 25-22, 17-25, 25-17).
The 11th-ranked Jayhawks (15-2, 4-0 Big 12) win their 18-straight conference match while improving to 6-1 against teams in the top-50 of the NCAA RPI this season. Nwoke, a first-year sophomore came off the bench to give Kansas a spark late in the match, producing six kills on a .556 hitting percentage in just over one set played.
“She has been practicing well after she was in a little bit of a slump early in the season. Now, she’s firing on all cylinders,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “She gives great energy and certainly was a great boost for us tonight. This didn’t surprise us that she performed that way because she has been practicing so well lately.”
KU’s consistent trio of All-American leaders proved difficult to stop for the Mountaineers as well.
Senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon led the Jayhawks with 17 kills, including eight in the first set alone, adding 11 digs for her eighth double-double of the season. Senior setter Ainise Havili guided KU’s offense to a .273 hitting percentage with 50 assists and 10 digs — her 14th double-double of the year. Senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne added 12 kills and six digs in the winning effort.
The Jayhawks limited WVU to a .255 attacking clip and to under its Big 12-leading season average of 1.60 aces per set. Sophomore libero Allie Nelson captained KU’s back row defense with 21 digs, while Rigdon led KU in blocks (three) for the second-straight match.
Kansas endured 14 ties and six lead changes on the way to a 28-26 first-set win. Rigdon’s eight first-set kills came on a.400 hitting percentage. As a team, Jayhawks notched a .348 attacking clip with 18 kills and just two attacking errors. But KU’s six unforced service errors set WVU up for a back-and-forth battle in extra points. Rigdon’s eighth kill of the set gave KU set point for the third time, 27-26, and Payne tooled off the WVU block on set point to clinch the 28-26 win.
The second was tied, 2-2, before Kansas went on a 4-0 run thanks in-part to three-straight attacking errors from West Virginia. WVU would come back to tie the second set nine times, but the Jayhawks never gave up that early lead. Sophomore outside hitter Jada Burse registered a kill on KU’s second set point for the 25-22 victory.
Kansas would eventually improve to 10-0 after winning the first two sets of a match this season, but not before dropping the third set, 25-17. WVU held Kansas to an uncharacteristic nine kills on a .100 hitting percentage in the third.
After an early 4-4 tie in the fourth set, Kansas rattled off a 4-0 run led by a pair of kills from Nwoke to take control. Havili zipped one of her two aces on the night to help lift Kansas to an 18-9 lead. The Jayhawks led by as much as 10 points, 21-11, before sophomore middle blocker Zoe Hill registered a kill on match point for the 25-17 fourth-set win.
Kansas improves to 13-0 all-time against West Virginia (12-5, 1-3), including a 7-0 mark in Morgantown. The Mountaineers were led by 15 kills from Katelyn Evans, while libero Alexa Hasting contributed 22 digs.
“This will be a tough place for teams to win this season,” Bechard concluded. “Texas got out of here in five sets. We were challenged hard and will look back on this win and appreciate that we beat a really good team on the road.”
Under third-year head coach Reed Sunahara, WVU debuted at No. 43 in the NCAA RPI released on Monday. Three of the Mountaineers’ four losses this season have come against top-15 teams.
Kansas closes its two-match conference road swing at Oklahoma on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Central.
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