No. 4 Kansas rallies past Oklahoma on historic night
NORMAN, Okla. – Fourth-ranked Kansas volleyball rallied from a one-set deficit on the road to defeat Oklahoma in four sets (23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 27-25) on Saturday night at McCasland Field House.
The Jayhawks (22-2, 11-1 Big 12) extend their winning streak to 10 matches to retain a first-place position in the Big 12 standings. Four regular-season matches remain to determine the Big 12 champion.
It is KU’s second 10-match winning streak of the season; 2016 becomes the first season in program history the Jayhawks have had two winning streaks of 10 matches or more. The winning streak also ties for the sixth-longest in program history.
With six blocks, senior middle blocker Tayler Soucie became the third Jayhawk to reach 500 career blocks and the second Jayhawk to reach 100 blocks all four seasons of her career. She ended the match with those exact numbers – 500 career blocks and 100 blocks on the season.
Soucie contributed three of her six blocks on the night in a critical fourth set, which Kansas rallied from a late six-point deficit, 18-12, to clinch the four-set victory in extra points, 27-25. Kansas also won the second set with a two-point margin, 25-23, to recover from a first-set loss to OU.
Junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne also joined an elite group of Jayhawks on Saturday night, becoming the 15th to reach 1,000 career kills at KU. The Austin, Texas native recorded a match-high 21 kills against the Sooners on a .381 hitting percentage, adding seven digs, six blocks and an ace.
KU’s back-row defense did everything possible to keep balls alive and in play all night. Their efforts are reflected by three Jayhawks reach double-figure digs – senior libero Cassie Wait’s 21, junior Tori Miller’s career-high 12 and junior All-American setter Ainise Havili’s 12. Nine of Wait’s 21 digs were converted into kills, while seven of Miller’s 12 were eventual points for KU.
Kansas has won the last five matches against Oklahoma (13-12, 4-8) and lead the series during the Big 12 era (since 1996), 28-14. Junior middle blocker Marion Hazelwood paced the Sooners with 16 kills on a .448 hitting percentage.
After dropping a close first set, 25-23, the Big 12’s leader in aces, junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon, took over. Rigdon started the set with an ace and finished the second stanza with nine kills, including KU’s last four points in the set, as Kansas equalized the match with a 25-23 decision in set two.
Payne recorded her 10th kill of the night and 1,000 career kill midway through the third set to bring Kansas within one, 9-8. On the next point, Payne took to the service line and served an ace to tie the set at nine. Payne’s six kills in the third set was capped off her 15th kill of the night on set point, giving KU a 25-20 victory.
Kansas showed its patented girt in the fourth set, rallying from down 18-12 to clinch its 10th-straight victory with a thrilling 27-25 extra-point decision in the final set. Kansas needed a solution for OU’s offense which recorded 18 kills in the fourth set, despite the loss. Soucie was part of that answer as she combined with her teammates for three block-assists down the stretch, including a block-assist with Rigdon to reach her 500th career block and give KU its first match point, 24-23. The Sooners tied the set two more times before Kansas escaped with a kill from junior middle blocker Kayla Cheadle to go up, 26-25.
Havili ended the match with an exclamation mark for Kansas and a crowd-silencer for Oklahoma – an untouched ace on KU’s third match point for the win.
Kansas has a week off before playing host to TCU on Saturday, Nov. 12 in Lawrence.
KU CAREER KILLS
1. Josi Lima 2002-05 – 1,483
2. Caroline Jarmoc 2009-13 – 1,333
3. Sarah Rome 2000-03 – 1,312
4. Karina Garlington 2007-10 – 1,309
5. Allison Mayfield 2008-11 – 1,282
6. Sara McClinton 2011-14 – 1,272
7. Amanda Reves 1996-99 – 1,264
8. Mary Beth Albrecht 1996-99 – 1,171
9. Emily Brown 2004-07 – 1,168
10. Judy Desch 1984-87 – 1,146
11. Jana Correa 2003-06 – 1,131
12. Cyndee Kanabel 1990-93 – 1,122
13. Moira Donovan 1995-98 – 1,081
14. Ashley Michaels 2001-04 – 1,054
15. KELSIE PAYNE 2014-present 1,011
KU CAREER BLOCKS
1. Caroline Jarmoc 2009-13 – 555
2. Amanda Reves 1996-99 – 514
3. TAYLER SOUCIE 2013-present – 500
4. Josi Lima 2002-05 – 418
5. Tayler Tolefree 2009-12 – 405
Kansas head coach Ray Bechard
Opening thoughts on the match:
“We played a team that played really hard. We figured out after the first part of the first set that if we don’t play hard it is going to be a short night. From that point on I thought we tried really hard. It’s great to see us close out two two-point (margin) sets, especially the fourth set when we got down (by six points, 18-12).
“We had really good offensive balance. It came down to us dominating the net at the right time in the fourth set. I’m really proud of the fight we showed. We know our execution wasn’t at the highest level but there was some want-to out there. That was a critical match and it could have been one that — after back-to-back five-set matches against Texas and K-State — for one reason or another we could have faded away but we certainly didn’t. I’m proud of that.”
On Kelsie Payne, the night she reached 1,000 career kills:
“Kelsie got off to a little bit of a slow start, but you look at her line — 21 kills, .381, seven digs, six blocks and an ace – and you wouldn’t be able to tell. Here’s a young lady who never played six rotations prior to this season and now she is contributing from everywhere. To get her 1,000th kill as a junior, that means she is doing a lot of things right.”
On Tayler Soucie, the night she reached 500 career blocks:
“Tayler never quits. When we really needed to score some points with a block, she was there with another six block-assists, along with nine kills. I’m very proud of her efforts today and throughout her career. She will go down as one of the best in the Big 12.”
On the ace on match point:
“(Ainise) Havili had an unbelievable serve to end the match. A lot of times in that (match point) situation you might be tentative and lob one in, but she certainly got after it and it paid off.”
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