Top-25 Rematch Results in Tournament Title for Kansas, Downs Creighton in Four
LAWRENCE, Kan. – In a rematch from the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the same showdown that resulted in a Sweet 16 berth for Kansas, the 22nd-ranked Jayhawks defeated 23rd-ranked Creighton, 3-1, to win the Kansas Invitational on Saturday afternoon in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, 25-21, 27-25, 17-25, 25-16.
Tournament MVP and Omaha native, Sara McClinton, led the charge. The senior outside hitter registered 18 kills and achieved a .412 hitting percentage to lead the floor and lift the Jayhawks (2-1) in their season-opening tournament. Just a single spot away from each other on the AVCA Top-25 poll, Creighton (2-1) and Kansas did not disappoint its predictions for being a highly-competitive contest. Even more so with the rematch element built in.
“We knew that they were going to come after us,” McClinton said. “We had that feeling two years ago when Wichita State knocked us out of the tournament, so we’ve been on both sides of it. We knew we had to get on them early.”
Freshman Ainise Havili earned All-Tournament Team honors in her first weekend as a collegiate setter. After Creighton rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win the third set, Havili led the Jayhawks to a .441 attack percentage in set four to close the door on the Bluejays and seal the win. She tallied 48 assists and two aces on Saturday, her best outing of the weekend. The Jayhawks also got a big performance out of junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery, who knocked down 15 kills for a .310 hitting efficiency. For the second-straight match, freshman middle blocker Kayla Cheadle led the team in blocks (5), while sophomore libero Cassie Wait set a new career-high with 27 digs.
Voted to win the Big EAST, Creighton was led by all-conference seniors Leah McNary and Kelli Browning, who totaled 11 and 10 kills, respectively. The Bluejays led the nation in blocks a year ago. On Saturday, KU and CU kept each other on point with eight team blocks apiece.
Cassie Wait and the Jayhawks were fired up
after a big point against Creighton.”I told the team that 700 was nice, but 701 (wins) will have even more meaning because you beat a really good team,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “It could’ve been a great weekend, but it was a good weekend. They made it a good weekend with their effort today.”
Leading the Jayhawks in the first set with four kills and three blocks, Cheadle’s performance helped Kansas take the first set 25-21. An early 3-0 Bluejays run put Creighton up 8-4 until a kill and an ace by sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie ignited five-straight points for the Jayhawks. When KU took the 10-9 lead, Creighton was forced to call a timeout. After exchanging several points, a pair of kills by Dockery and Soucie, combined with Madison Rigdon’s fourth ace of the year, the Jayhawks jumped out to a 19-15 lead. Creighton fought back in an attempt to take control of the set, cutting the Jayhawks’ lead to one, 22-21, but three-straight points by Kansas finished off the set 25-21.
In a back-and-forth, electrifying second set, featuring 13 ties and seven lead changes, Kansas battled from behind to emerge with a 27-25 win. A pair of runs from both sides highlighted the early action, and a long rally, which saw each team make several athletic digs brought the announced crowd of 1,158 fans to their feet. Creighton held the early 6-4 advantage, but after a pair of Jayhawk points, the set turned into a back-and-forth battle. Creighton powered ahead on a 5-0 run, forcing Kansas to take to use both timeouts after falling behind 19-15. Clutch kills by Dockery and McClinton brought the Jayhawks back in it and Albers blasted a kill during another long rally to tie the set, 23-23. Moments later, a pair of powerful kills from Dockery pushed Kansas into the lead, and eventually the win, 27-25.
From the opening serve of the third set, Kansas was never able to capture control as they dropped the third set, 25-17. Out of the break and down 0-2, Creighton came out firing. The Bluejays opened with a strong offensive attack, hitting .444 early, and jumping out to a 12-8 lead. Keeping its foot on the gas pedal, Creighton’s attack continued on as the lead was pushed to six, 19-13. Following a couple of service errors by the Bluejays, Kansas was able to battle its way back, down only three, 20-17. Unable to seize further momentum, Creighton wrapped it up with five-straight points, taking the set 25-17.
Refusing to let the Bluejays take another set, McClinton and Dockery registered eight and six kills, respectfully, to propel the Jayhawks in the final set. McClinton led the Jayhawks out of the gate, blasting kills on three of their first four points. Joining the party, Dockery knocked down two kills to put Kansas ahead 8-6, forcing Creighton to call a timeout. With the momentum still with Kansas, Dockery, Soucie, Albers and McClinton slammed a series of kills to break open the frame, giving Kansas a commanding 16-8 lead. After another pair of kills from McClinton, Dockery stepped up and took command of the game by registering a key block. She sealed the deal with two more late kills to close out the match, 25-16.
- Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie made her 25th-consecutive start.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton’s 18 kills puts her at 995 for her career.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait broke her previous career-high with 27 digs. Her previous career-high (19) came in the second round of the NCAA Tournament – against Creighton.
No. 22 Kansas will travel to Denver, Colorado for the Pioneer Classic hosted by Denver University, Sept. 5-6. Bradley is first up for the Jayhawks on Friday, Sept. 5. First serve is set for 5:30 CT.
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