No. 4 Kansas puts on defensive clinic against TCU

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Fourth-ranked Kansas volleyball put on a defensive clinic, featuring 14 blocks and 72 digs, on the way to a four-set win over TCU (21-25, 25-16, 25-16, 25-17) on Saturday evening inside a sold out Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Kansas (23-2, 12-1 Big 12) improves its overall winning streak to 11 matches while extending its home-court winning streak to 15 matches.

Following KU’s 25-21 first-set loss, the Kansas defense held TCU to a combined .103 hitting percentage in the final three sets, including a .053 clip in the fourth set.

“After the first set, defensively I thought that we took over more and more as the match went on,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “You can see with 14 blocks and 72 digs; Soucie with 11 block-assists and Wait with 30 digs – those two dominated the match defensively. Offensively we got better as the match went on too – .289 is a good number in the Big 12.”

Senior middle blocker Tayler Soucie, who was recognized before the match as third Jayhawk to reach 500 career blocks, continued with her feverish pace by recording a season-high 11 blocks, adding nine kills on a .348 hitting percentage. Senior libero Cassie Wait recorded 30 digs for her second-career 30-dig output in a four-set match.

Junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon also recovered from a slow start to the night, finishing with a match-high 20 kills and 11 digs for her ninth double-double of the season. Rigdon poured in seven kills on 11 errorless swings in the fourth set to power the Jayhawks’ offense to victory.  

“We really benefited from Rigdon mixing up her shots and angles as the match went on,” Bechard said. “Most of her 20 kills came in the last three sets. For an outside hitter to hit .395 with 43 swings and three errors — that’s outstanding.”

Junior All-American setter Ainise Havili smoothing guided the Jayhawks to an efficient finish with 50 assists – her third-straight 50-assist match. Havili contributed 17 digs and five blocks to KU’s stout defensive effort.

The Jayhawks also moved into sole possession of first place in the Big 12 standings after No. 5 Texas lost at Iowa State in five sets on Saturday evening. Kansas needs two more wins in the last three regular-season contests of the season to claim its first-ever Big 12 title.

TCU (11-12, 4-9), which entered the week with a No. 29 ranking in the NCAA RPI, was led by 11 kills from Natalie Gower.

Seniors Maggie Anderson, Tayler Soucie and Cassie Wait celebrated their 100th win as a group on Saturday. In their four-year playing careers at Kansas, the tremendous trio boasts a 100-22 record (.820), including a 53-5 record (.914) since 2015.

Kansas leads the all-time series with TCU, 9-2, including a 9-1 mark during Big 12 Conference regular season play. Kansas has won the last four matches against the Horned Frogs.

Kansas is on a 15-match home winning streak, including a 11-0 record this season, and is 32-1 in the last 33 matches inside Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

KU’s 11-match winning streak is the second winning streak of the season lasting 10 matches or longer. The 2016 season is the first in program history the Jayhawks have had two winning streaks of 10 matches or more. The winning streak also ties for the third-longest in program history with an 11-match winning streak in 1992.

With Saturday’s win over TCU, Kansas at least clinched a share of second place in the Big 12 standings. Kansas has finished with at least a tie in the Big 12 standings in the last four seasons. The Jayhawks have a chance to capture its first-ever Big 12 title by winning two of the remaining three matches of the regular season.

Winning the first set is always nice – Kansas is 18-0 this season when doing so. But the Jayhawks have also found success when losing the first set. Kansas has lost the first set in six Big 12 matches but has rallied to win five of those matches – against Baylor (Oct. 1), at Iowa State (Oct. 5), against No. 2 Texas (Oct. 29), at Oklahoma (Nov. 5), and against TCU (Saturday).

Kansas visits West Virginia on Wednesday, Nov. 16 for a 5 p.m. Central time first serve against the Mountaineers.

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