Volleyball Sweeps Western Illinois in Home Opener
LAWRENCE, Kan. – An efficient offensive attack and defensive grit led Kansas to an impressive straight-set victory over Western Illinois on Friday (25-14, 25-16, 25-6) to open the home season at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
KU’s loyal fans witnessed sophomore right-side Kelsie Payne finish with 14 kills on a .632 clip, while sophomore setter Ainise Havili’s 34 assists set the pace for an offense that recorded a .412 hitting percentage – a mark that would have been a season high last year. KU’s defense held Western Illinois to a .125 hitting percentage, including just two kills on a .000 hitting percentage in the third set.
Kansas remained outstanding from the service line, recording 12 aces in total. Maggie Anderson tied her career high with two aces and after a substitution late in the third set, Addison Barry provided the final point of the game with her first ace of the season. KU has now reached double-figure aces in two consecutive matches.
Western Illinois stayed close for the first half of set one, never letting the KU lead extend to more than four points. After cutting the lead to just a single point at 10-9, the Jayhawks fired back with three quick kills from sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon, junior middle blocker Taylor Soucie and Havili. WIU came out of a timeout and took three of the next four points to keep the set close. The momentum shifted after a service error from the Leathernecks, however. Holding onto a 15-12 lead, the Jayhawks jumped on the opportunity and tacked on three straight points off of Havili’s second ace of the set and kills from Kelsie Payne and Janae Hall, both assisted by Havili, to make it 18-12. Three more kills, an ace, and errors from WIU buried the Leathernecks in the first set.
Havili added 11 more assists to her total, including three of KU’s first four points in the second set. Once again, the Leathernecks kept up with the Jayhawks for the first few points of the game until back-to-back aces from Ashlyn Driskill got the crowd at Horejsi energized and WIU was forced to call a timeout with KU leading 6-2. Out of the timeout, errors from WIU and an ace from Cassie Wait extended the lead to 10-3. As WIU continued to hang tough, the Jayhawks went on another streak, with three straight kills from Taylor Soucie, Havili, and Driskill to make the score 15-5. WIU surged back, taking seven of the next ten points to cut the KU lead to six points, at 18-12. Two WIU errors paired with kills from Payne and Soucie extended the lead back to ten, at 22-12. WIU countered with two kills of their own to put some pressure back on the Jayhawks. After a kill from Payne, Carpenter subbed into the game and immediately provided a spark, assisting on a kill by Soucie. At set point, WIU kept battling, forcing two errors from the Jayhawks before KU finally claimed the set on a service error from WIU.
The Jayhawks came out firing in the third and final set of the game. Havili assisted back-to-back kills from Payne to get out to an early 2-0 lead. KU piled on the offense, with five more kills to make the score 8-3 and forcing an early WIU timeout. The break in the action did not cool down the potent Jayhawk offense, as the Leatherbacks were stifled and only recorded three more points for the remainder of the game. Havili recorded 13 of the 16 Jayhawk assists in the final set, bringing her total for the match to 34. She also added on a kill and two aces to push the Jayhawks to victory in the first game of the Kansas Invitational.
Kansas returns to action tonight against Duke in a 7 p.m. first-serve at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
• The victory against Western Illinois marks Head Coach Ray Bechard’s 299th victory at Kansas, making him one win away from being the first volleyball coach to reach 300 wins while at KU.
• Sophomore Kelsie Payne led the team in kills with 14 total, marking her fourth consecutive match with double-figure kills.
• KU recorded 12 aces on Friday for back-to-back matches with double-figure aces (10 vs. Arkansas last Saturday).
• Sophomore setter Ainise Havili filled up the stat sheet with 34 assist, three kills, seven digs, four aces, and one.
• Senior outside hitter Ashlyn Driskill had three of the Jayhawks 12 aces, which is just one short of her career best.