No. 14 Kansas volleyball drops five-set heartbreaker on Senior Day
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas volleyball lost a five-set heartbreaker to West Virginia on Senior Day at Horejsi Family Athletics Center, 3-2 (20-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12).
The 14th-ranked Jayhawks’ loss proved to be an unfitting end to one of the most successful senior classes in program history, which had entered Saturday with 101 wins, a Final Four appearance, KU’s first-ever conference title and a combined six All-America honors.
“This senior class has been very tight-knit and done some great things through the years,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said after the match. “They have helped three other KU senior classes win on their Senior Day and won over 100 matches overall. This is the most current in our minds, but you have to look at the body of work in their four years here and be very proud of them.”
Kansas (22-7, 11-5 Big 12) recorded a .314 hitting percentage on Saturday, held a 72 to 62 advantage in team kills and a 13.0 to 7.5 advantage in team blocks, but gave up 13 points on service errors with just one ace.
“We had 10 more kills, hit 70 points higher, out-blocked them and had more digs, but the service line really bit us — 13 service errors with one ace,” Bechard said. “Let’s give West Virginia credit. They have been playing well as of late. They deserve to win.”
West Virginia (18-12, 6-10) was led by Payton Caffrey’s 28 kills and three aces. Saturday marks the first-ever victory for WVU in the 14 all-time matches between the Jayhawks and Mountaineers.
Despite the loss, the day was nonetheless historic for the Jayhawks.
The first of Kelsie Payne’s team-high 17 kills will go down in the record books, as the senior All-American set KU’s all-time record for career kills with the first point of the match. Payne broke Josi Lima’s 12-year-old record of 1,483 kills, set in 2005. The Austin, Texas, native ends the regular season with 1,500 career kills — alone atop the list of most prolific attackers in KU history.
Senior middle blocker Kayla Cheadle recorded season highs of nine kills and nine block-assists and Payne added seven block-assists as Kansas tied its season high for team blocks during conference play (13.0).
Senior All-American outside hitter Madison Rigdon registered 16 kills and 19 digs for her 12th double-double of the season and 31st of her career. Senior All-American setter Ainise Havili led Kansas to a team hitting percentage of .300 or better for the 10th time this season with 54 assists and nine digs.
Three defensive specialists started the match for the Jayhawks with Addie Barry getting the senior-day nod — her first start since 2014, Tori Miller starting for the sixth-straight match and Allie Nelson completing her first full regular-season as KU’s starting libero. Nelson led the trio with 17 digs, while Miller registered 15 digs for the second-straight match.
All 13 matches at Horejsi Family Athletics Center this season have been sold-out capacity crowds, including an exhibition contest.
Kansas will await its seed in the upcoming NCAA Volleyball Championship. The 64-team bracket will be revealed on Sunday evening (8 p.m., ESPNU). Kansas is looking to make its sixth-straight tournament appearance while also vying to host the first- and second-rounds for the sixth-straight season.
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