No. 4 Kansas sweeps Maryland for 5-0 start

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – No. 4 Kansas improved to 5-0 on Friday night inside a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center, defeating Maryland, 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-23) to mark the Jayhawks’ 20th-straight win over a nonconference opponent during the regular season.

KU’s handful of gutsy individual performances was highlighted by junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon, who carried the team on her back in a pivotal first-set momentum swing while continuing her trademark of consistency as a six-rotation player for the reigning national semifinalists.

Picking up in the tail-end of the first set with Kansas facing a Maryland set-point, 24-23, Rigdon placed a cross-court attack near Maryland’s 10-foot line. The line judge called it out – point, set Maryland. Not so fast. Kansas head coach Ray Bechard used one of his challenges to review the call through the video replay system. And upon further review Rigdon’s attack was proven to be in – sending roars through the sellout crowd and tying the set, 24-24.

“You get three challenges so I can’t imagine if it is a point to decide the set why you wouldn’t,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “I glanced at the monitor and thought the ball was in. It changed the mood in the gym. That’s why we have the challenge system, so we can get it right.”

Junior All-American setter Ainise Havili, having supreme knowledge of when and where to give the ball to her hitters, went back to Rigdon to finish the set. Rigdon did just that, with authority, pounding down consecutive kills from Havili’s assist to give Kansas a 26-24 first-set win.

Maryland responded with an early 4-1 lead early in the second set, but the Jayhawks quickly negated the Terps’ lead with a 3-0 run and eventually pulling away to a 15-11 lead at the media timeout. Kansas played three set points before freshman middle blocker Zoe Hill finished off the 25-19 second-set win with a kill – one of her four kills in the second set.

Hill and fellow freshman outside hitter Jada Burse showed their upside during their first day of competing on their new home court. The newcomer duo combined for 16 kills on a .555 hitting percentage with just one attacking error between them. Burse contributed five of her kills as Kansas closed in on its fifth consecutive straight-set victory.

The Jayhawks led 20-13 in the final set, but didn’t slam the door on a Maryland 10-2 rally until Payne registered a powerful kill to tie it at 23. Next, a miraculous serve from Rigdon hit the top of the next and careened over to Maryland’s side for an ace to give Kansas set point, 24-23. Burse put the finishing touches on the victory with her eighth and final kill of night.

Senior libero Cassie Wait directed KU’s defense all night and contributed 20 digs in only three sets. The first-year law school student is now averaging five digs per set on the season.

Payne finished with a career-high 14 digs as she continues to grow into her new role as a six-rotation player. Havili assisted on 43 kills while sneaking in four kill of her own on setter dumps and a joust at the net.

Kansas (5-0) gives Maryland (4-1) its first loss of the season in their first true road match of the season. Gia Milana led the Terps with 10 kills, while Angel Gaskin contributed nine kills with four blocks.

The Jayhawks conclude the Kansas Invitational tomorrow with a 1:30 p.m. first serve against Arkansas inside Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The match will be exclusively available to watch on ESPN3.  

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