Central Arkansas Edges Kansas for the Upset, 3-1
TUCSON, Ariz. – Playing from behind for most of the match, No. 20 Kansas clawed back in the fourth set, tying the score three times in the final five points, but Central Arkansas held on for the win at the Arizona Invitational inside the McKale Center Friday afternoon, 21-25, 25-16, 24-26, 24-26.
Central Arkansas (1-0), who was one of seven teams in the NCAA to win 30 matches a year ago, played like a team poised for an upset. Although Kansas (0-1) outhit (.232-.202) and outdug (76-70) the Sugar Bears, UCA came up with the clutch plays needed to seal the win.
“They made winning volleyball plays at the end and were aggressive,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We were tentative at times in the third and fourth sets and that was the difference. Stats are important and we monitor all that, but game-winning plays at the end of sets are more important. Let’s give them credit; they did a great job of that.”
Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc cranked out 19 kills – including six in the third set and seven in the fourth – to lead the floor, while junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers chalked up a double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs. Senior setter Erin McNorton dished 49 assists to pace the offense, and fellow senior Brianne Riley set the tone for the defense. She dug up a team-high 18 digs, making her one of four Jayhawks to tally double-digit digs in the loss.
In her first appearance as a Jayhawk, redshirt freshman middle blocker Janae Hall registered eight kills and just one error for the best attack percentage of the match at .368. None of their efforts, however, could offset a combined 42 kills from UCA’s Jessica Nagy (17), Heather Schnars (13) and Paige Gantar (12). Libero Shelbee Berringer may have had the biggest hand in the win, offsetting numerous Jayhawk attacks with 29 digs.
With both teams coming off record-setting 2012 seasons, KU’s first match of 2013 started unpredictably. Errors plagued both teams as neither offense hit well in the opening frame that saw Kansas drop the first set to trail, 1-0.
In the opening set, neither team could break away although the Sugar Bears twice jumped out to a three-point lead, including a 14-11 edge midway through the frame. After a combined block from McNorton and Jarmoc and an attack error on UCA’s side, the Jayhawks knotted the score, 14-14. UCA charged right back, taking the next two points to force a Kansas timeout.
Jarmoc blasted a kill out of the break, but UCA again broke open a lead, winning the 20-point race, 20-16, prompting another Jayhawk timeout. From there, errors infected both teams as four-straight mishaps between the two narrowed the Sugar Bear lead, 22-20. The Jayhawks wouldn’t get any closer – with eight errors to only 10 kills, Kansas fell in the first set, 25-21.
First-set issues behind them, the Jayhawks ripped off 11 kills before registering their one and only error in the second set. Albers, Carmichael and Hall caught fire, each notching kills and pushing KU out a 16-9 lead. UCA attempted to regain footing with back-to-back points, but Kansas was rolling. Aces from senior defensive specialist Amy Wehrs and Jarmoc combined a final kill from redshirt senior outside hitter Catherine Carmichael ended the second set in convincing fashion, 25-16.
A pair of hard swings from sophomore outside Tiana Dockery fell in for kills and helped Kansas dig out of an early 6-3 hole in the third set. Consecutive attack errors on UCA’s side reset the score, 9-9, setting up an intense finish to the set.
Down 13-11, Dockery kept pace with her third kill of the set, while Jarmoc knocked down two of her own. An impressive solo block from McNorton saw KU take a slim, 17-16 lead, before UCA came out with three-straight points to bring on a KU timeout.
Out of the pause, Dockery and Hall churned out kills, and an Albers-Jarmoc block capped a 5-1 Jayhawk run to put them up, 22-20. UCA was relentless. Kansas outhit the Sugar Bears in the third set, .308 to .286, including a team-best six kills from Jarmoc, but it wasn’t enough. Fighting off all efforts from the other side, UCA came back to take the third set, 26-24.
The grind continued in the fourth set with both team trading points until UCA created space with a 13-9 lead that saw Bechard use a timeout. KU’s fate looked bleak, falling behind 16-11, but the Jayhawks wouldn’t have it. A solo block from Dockery sparked an onslaught of Kansas offense. Checking in for her first action of the season, All-Big 12 First Teamer Sara McClinton cranked out a kill as did Albers and McClinton to tie the set.
Again Albers and Jarmoc teamed up for game-tying kills in the waning moments of the match. KU tied the set 20-20, 23-23 and 24-24, but UCA’s Gantar and Scout Brooks halted the Jayhawk rally with a 26-24 final set, taking the match 3-1.
- Kansas has not lost a season opener since the 2009 season (1-3 at Middle Tennessee State). In 16 years, head coach Ray Bechard is 13-3 in season openers at Kansas.
- Senior libero Brianne Riley became the first Jayhawk in history to surpass 1,500 digs. KU’s all-time digs leader extended her career total to 1,516 on Friday.
- Freshman Cassie Wait and redshirt freshman Janae Hall made their first appearances as Jayhawks.
Kansas will square off against Morgan State on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT. The Jayhawks will face tournament host Arizona in Saturday’s primetime match at 9 p.m. CT.
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