No. 9 Kansas defeats Long Beach State, 3-1
OREM, Utah – Ninth-ranked Kansas volleyball started slow, but eventually pulled away from Long Beach State in a four-set win Friday afternoon at Lockhart Arena on day two of the Wolverine Invitational (17-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-23).
Senior All-American outside hitter Kelsie Payne led the Jayhawks with 20 kills – her third 20-kill performance this season – on a .381 hitting percentage. Senior All-American outside hitter Madison Rigdon contributed 17 kills and 13 digs for her third double-double of the season. Rigdon clinched the win for KU with a kill on match point which was nearly identical to her match-point kill against No. 1 USC in the 2015 NCAA Tournament regional finals.
Kansas (5-0) stammered to a .033 hitting percentage in the first set, but recovered with a combined .350 hitting clip in the last three sets. By the end of the match, the Jayhawks outpaced the 49ers (1-4) 64 to 46 in kills, including 20 in the fourth set alone, and 73 to 51 in digs.
“Long Beach was a lot more ready to play than we were,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “That’s on our staff, our coaches and our players to be more prepared. You can’t prepare for a team you see on video, you have to be prepared to face their best effort and that is certainly what we got. With that being said, we played extremely well in the last three sets and found out a little more the kind of team we want to be.”
Senior All-American setter Ainise Havili continued her consistent play of late, registering her fifth double-double off the season with 52 assists and 14 digs. Sophomore libero Allie Nelson recorded a match-high 16 digs.
Long Beach recorded three blocks in its first five points of the match to jump out to a 6-1 lead, forcing a KU timeout. The 49ers would come out of that timeout with an ace before taking a commanding 9-1 lead. KU’s first kill of the day was also the first-career kill from senior defensive specialist Tori Miller, who floated a service reception over the net, making the score 9-3.
Kansas would string together a handful of solid plays in the first set, but could not overcome a lackluster offensive start – .033 hitting percentage – and Long Beach’s side-out clip of 88 percent. The 49ers took the first set, 25-17.
Kansas would right the ship with a tone-setting 25-19 second-set win. The Jayhawks jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second after back-to-back blocks. Long Beach rallied to take a 10-7 lead, but that would be overcome as sophomores Jada Burse and Zoe Hill to give Kansas a 17-16 lead. The 49ers would tie the score two more times, but Kansas never relinquished its lead for the remainder of the second set. Senior middle blocker Taylor Alexander put the final touch on KU’s 25-19 second-set win with a kill on set point.
In the second set alone, Kansas had five blocks and Rigdon had six kills.
Payne carried the Jayhawks between the second and third sets. Since an 18-18 tie in the second set and KU’s 5-2 lead in the third, Payne poured in seven kills. KU would carry that momentum with 19 team kills on a .469 hitting percentage in the third set and 20 kills on a .357 hitting percentage in the fourth set.
Kansas improves to 2-0 against Long Beach State, the five-time national champions. The last time the teams met, the Jayhawks notched their first-ever NCAA Tournament win over the 49ers in straight-set fashion in the first round on Dec. 4, 2003.
Kansas concludes the Wolverine Invitational with a 10:30 a.m. Central time first-serve against Montana on Saturday morning. Live coverage of the match will be available on FloVolleyball.com and KUAthletics.com/radio.
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