No. 8 Kansas sweeps opening weekend with five-set win over NC State
RALEIGH, N.C. – Eighth-ranked Kansas volleyball concluded an undefeated opening weekend of the regular season with a five-set win over NC State on Saturday night at Reynolds Coliseum during the finale of the Wolfpack Invitational (26-28, 25-17, 22-25, 25-17, 15-8).
Senior All-American setter Ainise Havili posted three double-doubles throughout the weekend to take home tournament MVP honors, while first-year starting libero Allie Nelson and senior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Havili finished Saturday night with 63 assists, 14 digs and three blocks while directing KU’s offense to a .350 hitting percentage against NC State. Both Payne and senior All-American outside hitter Madison Rigdon notched 20-kill performances to lead a potent KU offensive arsenal that out-gained NC State in kills, 76-62. Nelson tallied 17 digs against NC State and is averaging 5.15 digs per set after three matches as a starter.
Kansas (3-0) recorded double-figure team blocks for the second-straight match, ending with 13.0 rejections on Saturday night after posting 19.0 in the morning against Missouri State. Senior middle blocker Taylor Alexander led KU with seven blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Zoe Hill contributed five blocks with 10 kills in her first start of the 2017 season.
“We did the right thing at the right time today,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “We could have closed some sets a little bit quicker, but when we got to the fourth and fifth sets I thought we played as well as we had all weekend. Give NC State some credit. They played another five-set match earlier today in the afternoon and came right back to the court to battle extremely hard.”
KU is winner of nine of its last 10 nonconference tournaments and 29 of its last 30 regular-season nonconference matches.
NC State falls to 0-3 after a pair of losses to No. 8 Kansas and a five-set loss to Missouri State. Julia Brown registered 20 kills on a .368 hitting percentage to lead the ‘Pack.
The Jayhawks dropped the first and third sets of the match in similarly close fashion. In the first set, KU was down against an NC State set point, 24-21, but rallied to force extra points before an ace from the Wolfpack turned the tide for a 28-26 opening-set win.
There were a combined total of 21 ties eight lead changes in the first and third sets that Kansas lost. In the three sets that KU won, there were a combined total of one tie and no lead changes.
The Jayhawks jumped out to early leads in the second, fourth and fifth sets and didn’t look back. NC State started the fifth set with a service error and KU kept the pressure on with back-to-back blocks from Alexander and Rigdon on the way to a 6-2 advantage. Senior defensive specialist Tori Miller brought Kansas to match point, 14-7, with an ace. After a long rally, an NC State attack from Julia Brown went wide for an error to seal the win for Kansas.
“You go on the road to a fun environment like this is good experience,” Bechard concluded about the weekend. “I think the physicality of NC State is similar to what we’ll see in the Big 12. Missouri State is obviously going to have a great year. It shows some things we need to work on and maybe some things we are in a good spot with right now.”
Ainise Havili (MVP) – KANSAS
Allie Nelson – KANSAS
Kelsie Payne – KANSAS
Lily Johnson – Missouri State
Aubrey Cheffey – Missouri State
Julia Brown – NC State
Melissa Evans – NC State
Kansas travels to Orem, Utah, for the Wolverine Invitational starting Thursday night against host Utah Valley at 8 p.m. Central. The three-day event featuring comprehensive live video streaming by FloVolleyball continues with matches against Long Beach State on Friday and Montana on Saturday. Live audio coverage will also be available via KUAthletics.com/radio.
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