No. 4 Kansas passes test at West Virginia, 3-2
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Fourth-ranked Kansas volleyball was pushed to five sets on the road at West Virginia on Wednesday night inside WVU Coliseum and managed to extend its winning streak to 12 by finishing with a strong fifth set (25-18, 18-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-8).
The Jayhawks (24-2, 13-1 Big 12) rallied around the absence of junior All-American Kelsie Payne, who exited the match in the second set with a minor injury. Freshman Zoe Hill and redshirt freshman Ashley Smith helped fill the gap, while junior Madison Rigdon led the Jayhawks with 15 kills, adding nine digs and six blocks, and freshman Jada Burse had 11 kills and four blocks.
Senior middle blocker Tayler Soucie continued her hot streak of late with seven kills and seven block-assists – reaching six or more blocks for the fourth-straight match. Senior libero Cassie Wait held KU’s back row intact with 21 digs while serving up a match-high two service aces.
Junior All-American setter Ainise Havili recorded her 12th double-double of the season with 38 assists and 17 digs.
“It was a grind. You never know when things are not going to go your way,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “We had some key performances tonight. Zoe (Hill) came in and gave us a huge boost off the bench. Ashley (Smith) came in and was competitive – blocked well. But in the end, once again, Tayler (Soucie) got us off to a really good start in the fifth set.”
Kansas took a 2-1 lead in the match with impressive first- and third-set victories. The Jayhawks featured a 16-for-19 side-out rate against WVU’s serve and a .333 hitting percentage on the way to a 25-18 win in the opening set. Burse recorded four of her 11 kills in the third set, while junior defensive specialist Tori Miller came off the bench to dig up seven attacks to lead Kansas to another 25-18 win in the third set
After lackluster team performances in the second and fourth sets, where the Jayhawks had a combined .057 hitting percentage, the senior leadership of Soucie kicked in. The Osawatomie, Kansas native finished her last road trip to Morgantown with two kills and two blocks in the fifth set as Kansas improved to 6-0 in five-set matches this season.
The Jayhawks ran away with the fifth set, 15-8, by registering nine kills on a .500 hitting percentage with the help of three kills from Hill.
West Virginia (12-16, 3-11), which celebrated its Senior Night on Wednesday, finished with four Mountaineers in double-figure kills, led by freshman Payton Caffrey’s 19 kills and 16 digs. Kansas improves to 12-0 all-time in the series against West Virginia.
“I told the team, ‘there is nothing to hang our head about.’ West Virginia has taken a lot of teams to four or five sets in this building,” Bechard said. “We absolutely had to earn it tonight because West Virginia played one of their better matches of the season, I thought.”
Kansas now stands one win away from clinching at least a share of its first-ever Big 12 Conference title.
Tayler Soucie passed Amanda Reves (1996-99, 514) for second on KU’s career blocks list with 518.
Kansas returns to Lawrence for Senior Day against Iowa State on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 11 a.m. Central.
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