No. 9 Kansas tops Idaho in nonconference finale
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Ninth-ranked Kansas volleyball concluded nonconference play with a four-set victory over Idaho on Saturday during the Santa Clara / San Jose State Tournament at Leavey Center (25-23, 21-25, 25-15, 26-24).
Kansas (11-2) finishes the regular-season portion of nonconference play with at least 11 wins for the seventh-straight season while improving to 191-32 (.857) against regular-season nonconference opponents in head coach Ray Bechard’s 20 years leading the Jayhawks.
Senior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne led the Jayhawks with a match-high 18 kills on a .410 hitting percentage, while sophomore outside hitter Ashley Smith contributed a career-high 13 kills during her third start of the season.
The Jayhawks and Vandals split the first two sets of the match as Idaho (5-6) recorded just two attacking errors in the first two opening sets. Kansas went on to hold Idaho to a .171 hitting percentage to win the third and fourth sets and close out the weekend in California.
“We were just defensively below average in the first two sets,” Bechard said. “Then we made a little bit of a change with how we rotate behind the block in the third and fourth sets — holding them below .200, which is where we have to be to be successful. I thought that energy defensively really changed the momentum of the match moving forward.”
KU finished the match with 73 digs in four sets, led by career-high efforts in digs from senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon (17) and senior defensive specialist Tori Miller (16).
Kansas aced its test at the service line this weekend, closing the tourney on Saturday with six aces led by three each from Rigdon and senior defensive specialist Addison Barry. Through three matches in California this weekend, the Jayhawks recorded 15 aces and just 13 service errors. Idaho, which leads its conference in aces per set (1.70), was held to three aces and 12 service errors on Saturday.
Kansas and Idaho met for the first time in program history on Saturday. The Jayhawks have won the last eight matches against current Big Sky Conference teams, dating back to 1996.
Kansas begins Big 12 Conference play on national TV as ESPN2 will televise the first installment of the 2017 Dillons Sunflower Showdown on Sunday, Sept. 24 in Manhattan.
Santa Clara/San José State Invitational All-Tournament Team
MVP: Kirsten Mead, Santa Clara
Jensen Cunningham, Santa Clara
Kelsie Payne, Kansas
Ainise Havili, Kansas
Kaela Straw, Idaho
Nandyala Gama, San José State
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