No. 19 Kansas concludes season with five-set loss to Missouri

WICHITA, Kan. – It was a hot-and-cold night in Charles Koch Arena for both Kansas volleyball and Missouri during the NCAA Tournament first round on Friday, but the Tigers proved to bring the most heat in the end by edging the Jayhawks in five sets (3-2; 25-23, 15-25, 25-15, 20-15, 15-10).

“There was a lot of ebb and flow to the match,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said after guiding KU to six-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. “I’m a little disappointed we didn’t close out the first set, but also happy with the response in the second set. Each team got hot and Missouri got hot last; you can’t have five kills and six errors in a deciding set and expect to have some success. Missouri played very well and deserved to win and I think they’ll represent very well tomorrow night, whoever they’re playing.”

Kansas (22-8) concludes the 2017 season by saying farewell to a transformative group of seven seniors which elevated the program even higher in nation prominence with 101 victories, an appearance in the 2015 Final and capturing the 2016 Big 12 Conference title.

Seniors Kelsie Payne, Madison Rigdon and Ainise Havili, gave one last showing of brilliance in a Kansas uniform with Payne recording 10 kills, seven digs and four blocks. Rigdon posted her 13th double-double of the season with a team-high 15 kills and 12 digs while adding two aces. Havili guided KU’s offense one last time to the tune of 46 assists, nine digs and five kills.

“It’s never fun to end, especially when you hoped to play longer, but we’ll have an opportunity to reflect, not only on this year where there’s some good moments, but certainly the careers of these seniors with a Big 12 championship and a Final Four and all-time records,” Bechard said.

The Jayhawks’ future was also on display as sophomore Allie Nelson tied a career-high 28 digs and featured an array of rally-saving touches, none more impressive than hurling her body over the KU bench to keep the ball in play. Sophomore outside hitter Jada Burse fueled a Kansas rally in the fourth set to finish with 12 kills. Seven of those 12 kills came in the fourth set as KU recovered from an 8-4 MU deficit and clawed back to win, 25-20.  

Sophomore middle blocker Zoe Hill helped Kansas out-block one of the best blocking teams in the country with four blocks of her own — one solo and three block-assists. Kansas out-blocked Missouri, 10.0 to 7.0. The Tigers entered tournament play ranking sixth in the nation in blocks per set.

Missouri (22-11) was led by a pair of double-double efforts Kira Larson — 17 kills and 10 digs — and Dariana Hollingsworth — 11 kills and 19 digs. The Tigers advance to the second round to face host Wichita State on Saturday.

Kansas concludes the season with six-straight NCAA Tournament appearances and six-straight 20-win seasons while the program has been ranked in the AVCA Coaches Poll for 45-straight polls.

“Coming to Kansas is the best decision I have ever made.”

All-Americans Madison Rigdon, Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili all shared the same sentiment after their final match in a #KUvball jersey

— Kansas Volleyball (@KUVolleyball) December 2, 2017




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