No. 6 Kansas denies Iowa State in four sets

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AMES, Iowa – Entering a difficult road environment and dropping the first set is not a typical recipe for success, but sixth-ranked Kansas volleyball found a way to win during a four-set defensive battle at Iowa State on Wednesday night inside Hilton Coliseum (23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-19).

The Jayhawks (14-2, 3-1 Big 12) held Iowa State to a .143 hitting percentage behind a season-high 15.5 blocks. It is the most blocks by Kansas since owning the net with 20.5 blocks against Oklahoma on Nov. 29, 2014.

Despite a slow offensive night of its own, a .176 hitting percentage, Kansas managed to progressively improve its efficiency each set – starting with a .047 hitting percentage in a first-set loss and ending with a .333 hitting percentage in the fourth set.

Wednesday marked the second-straight win for Kansas after losing the first set.

“I was happy with the fact that we didn’t play offensively at all, but we found a way to win,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “Our blocking stepped-up – you look at Zoe (Hill) with seven, (Kelsie) Payne with eight, (Tayler) Soucie with nine. That was huge. We served as well as we have all season – three aces and just six errors. We dug well.”

Kansas, the Big 12 leader in aces per set, cleaned up their service game with the fewest service errors in the last six matches.

Junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne took over during the closing moments of the match with seven kills in the fourth set and nearly finishing with her first career triple-double – 18 kills, setting one career high with 16 digs and tying another career high with eight blocks.

“Kelsie took the match over in the last set-and-a-half,” Bechard said. “Sixteen digs is a number that jumps out at you. She just took over and was very aggressive the last two sets. That’s exactly what we need her to be.”

Iowa State (8-7) drops to 1-3 in Big 12 play despite winning the opening set in all four league matches. The Cyclones featured a pair of attackers with double-doubles as Jess Schaben led with 15 kills and 18 digs, while Ciara Capezio registered 12 kills and 14 digs.

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