Kansas Sweeps Army to Open 2015
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Done with preseason talk and finally unleashed to commence 2015, Kansas volleyball kicked off its season with a commanding three-set victory against Army Friday afternoon inside Barnhill Arena in the Arkansas Invitational opener. Led by 15 kills from senior outside hitter Tiana Dockery, the Jayhawks took the first win of the season 25-14, 25-14, 25-20.
Kansas (1-0) led from start to finish, handily taking sets one and two by the same 25-14 margins before Army (0-1) came out fired up out of the break. The Black Knights kept the score close through the midway point of the final frame, but the Jayhawks hit the gas for one final push to seal the opener. The win marks No. 296 at Kansas for head coach Ray Bechard, who started his 18th campaign with the Jayhawks on Friday.
“I was really happy with the way we came out,” Bechard said. “The first two sets were really clean. The third went a little bit more like volleyball goes, a couple of bounces didn’t go our way, but we finished on a nice stretch. That was a nice effort against an Army team that was picked to finish top-three in their league with almost all of their kids back.”
Dockery set the tone for the offense, tallying 15 kills against just two errors for a .433 hitting efficiency. Joining her on the leaderboard was newly-moved right side Kelsie Payne, who put up 11 kills and an impressive eight digs considering she was a middle blocker this time last season. Junior middle blocker Tayler Soucie led the team with a .500 attack percentage thanks to nine kills and only one error, while fellow junior middle Janae Hall paced the defense with five blocks.
Sophomore setter Ainise Havili missed a double-double by a single dig, dishing out 33 assists to accompany nine digs. The returning AVCA All-America honorable mention honoree also collected half of the team’s eight service aces and guided her offense to a red-hot .339 attack percentage. Holding it down for the defense, junior libero Cassie Wait recorded 16 digs and tied her career-high with six assists.
Dockery got her hot afternoon started right away, taking command with five kills in the opening frame. She rattled off the Jayhawks’ first two kills and sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon landed her first ace of the afternoon to push KU to an early 10-5 lead. Hall got after it, teaming with Payne for a block to put the Jayhawks out of reach, 20-9. A kill from Soucie and two more from Dockery wrapped up the first set of the season, 25-14.
Back-to-back aces by Havili forced a quick timeout from Army as the Black Knights found themselves trailing quickly, 6-1. Dockery and Hall connected on consecutive kills to double up the Black Knights, 14-7. Havili’s third ace of the set, followed by two-straight scores from Payne shot the Jayhawks way out in front, 20-11. Subbing in for her first action as a Jayhawk, senior transfer Ashlyn Driskill swatted her first pair of KU kills to send her team to the break with another 25-14 win and the 2-0 lead.
Army came out firing in set three, fighting to prolong the match. After tying the score at 7-7, Dockery and Soucie strung together four-straight kills to open up an 11-7 lead and prompt a timeout from the Black Knights’ bench. Out of the pause, Soucie went even harder, pounding out two more kills to stay in front. As Army crept back within a few points, Payne took her turn with the hot hand. She registered the next three kills, giving KU a cushion that proved quite handy.
Leading 18-12, KU gave up four of the next five points as Army worked to extend the match. At 19-16, Soucie swung back into action with a pair of kills to push Kansas to the 25-20 finish.
- Kansas opened its 41st season of volleyball on Friday and is now 25-16 in season openers, including a 15-3 mark under head coach Ray Bechard.
- Bechard tallied his 296th victory at Kansas against Army, bringing him one step closer to being the first coach in program history to 300 wins.
- KU’s eight service aces would have been a season-high in 2014.
- Sophomore setter Ainise Havili’s impressive four service aces as not a career-high (5 vs. American, 9/13/14).
- Junior libero Cassie Wait tied her career-high with six assists (6 vs. UMKC, 9/6/14).
- Junior middle blocker Janae Hall’s five blocks tied her personal-best. She last had five blocks against No. 23 Kansas State (11/12/14).
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