Kansas Rallies to Win Five-Set Thriller at Arkansas, 3-2
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Trailing 11-3 and in danger of falling behind two sets to none, Kansas needed a spark. A career-high effort from redshirt senior Catherine Carmichael was one of many the Jayhawks received to power a comeback victory on the road at Arkansas Thursday night inside Barnhill Arena, 27-29, 25-22, 19-25, 25-17, 15-10.
Kansas (4-1) answered Arkansas’ (3-2) lopsided second-set start with an 11-3 run of its own to rally and win the frame, setting the tone for an all-out battle that saw Arkansas take set one, Kansas set two, Arkansas set three and Kansas set four – setting up the first five-set match of the season.
“We felt like we were in control in the first set and the third set and those are the two we ended up losing,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Down 2-1 against a good team on the road, everyone contributed. I’m pretty proud of that effort. Hopefully, we can learn a lot. I think you need to be in a five-set situation on the road to really know what that feels like. It was good for us not only to experience it, but also to get a good result.”
Fueled by momentum in front of a hostile Arkansas crowd, Kansas ignored the pressure and went to work in the decisive fifth set. Two of Carmichael’s career-high 19 kills powered Kansas to 6-3 lead. Keeping the trend set throughout the night, Arkansas (3-2) came back to tie the final frame, 10-10.
Kansas only hit the gas harder. Senior setter Erin McNorton provided another of those sparks. She sprinted past the out-of-bounds line to save a ball over her head, ultimately forcing an Arkansas attack error, and the five-straight points needed for Kansas to win the fifth and final set, 15-10.
Though the teams last saw each other in Lawrence when Kansas hosted the NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds, Kansas and Arkansas had not played one another since last August. A year ago, the Razorbacks came back from a first-set loss to take the match. That was not the case on Thursday.
Carmichael broke her career high in the fifth set and led the Jayhawks with 19 kills. Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton was behind her with 14 kills, while redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc contributed a vital eight blocks.
Without the use of junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers, sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery came up big. She finished the night a kill shy of a double-double with nine kills and 10 digs, while adding a season-high seven blocks. McNorton dished out a season-high 51 digs, but her eight digs – including her point-saving sprint in the fifth set – proved equally important.
Seniors Brianne Riley and Jaime Mathieu held it down in the back row. Riley came up with a season-high 24 digs and Mathieu with 11.
Jarmoc and the Jayhawks fired out of the gate in the opening frame. The redshirt senior cranked out three kills and combined with three early Arkansas service errors, KU took a 7-3 lead. Arkansas charged back with a 4-0 run to take control of what had been a Jayhawk-dominated set.
A kill from Dockery sparked three-straight KU points in response, but a 6-0 run saw Arkansas instead take its first lead of the set, 18-17. With the back-and-forth battle established, a Riley ace and a Carmichael kill tied the set at 22. Three times Kansas fought off set point after falling behind 24-22, tying the set at 24, 25, 26 and 27 before dropping the first set, 29-27.
The second frame started nothing like the first when KU traded its hot start and poor finish in set one for the exact opposite in set two. Attack errors hounded the Jayhawks, who struggled to find offensive rhythm. Down 11-3, Bechard was forced to already use his last timeout of the set.
Kansas wasn’t done.
Blocks from Dockery, Jarmoc and McNorton combined with a pair of Carmichael-patented clutch kills, the Jayhawks stormed back. An 11-3 Jayhawk run erased the dismal start and tied the frame, 14-14. An attack error from the Arkansas side gave KU its first lead, 16-15.
Back in the driver’s seat, KU received an invaluable spark from an unexpected source as freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie caught fire for a two crucial kills and assisted Dockery in the block that put her team ahead, 23-19. Carmichael, a more veteran offensive source, sealed the 25-22 set victory with her 10th kill of the match to send the teams to break tied 1-1.
Fittingly, the third set left no mystery as to who would go on the big run as neither team allowed much room through the opening points. A Soucie/Dockery block provided a slight 10-8 edge, which Arkansas quickly negated. What changed the most, however, was the hitting efficiency. Entering the third set, Kansas was hitting a lowly .126 and Arkansas was even worse at .082. Tied at 18-18, the Jayhawks had 15 kills and no errors to their credit. A balanced offensive effort, Carmichael, Dockery and McClinton threw down kills bringing the set to the 19-19 mark. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the wheels suddenly stopped turning and six-straight points from the Razorbacks seized the set, 25-19.
An ace from Mathieu helped the Jayhawks regain footing to start the fourth set with a 6-3 lead. Through the first 10 Jayhawk points, they churned out an .857 attack percentage with six kills and no errors to set the tone needed and Kansas chalked up the largest set victory of the night, 25-17.
Although Arkansas came back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the fifth set at 10-10, the momentum had officially turned. Kansas came away with its fourth-straight win.
- With her 24 digs against Arkansas, senior libero Brianne Riley moved into ninth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list, passing Texas Tech’s Lisa Hilgers (1,583, 1995-98).
- Riley tied her career-high with three aces for the second time this season.
- Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc’s 1,027 career kills are the second-most among current Big 12 players. She trails fellow senior Kaitlynn Pelger from Kansas State.
- Jarmoc’s eight blocks on Thursday passed former KU volleyball player Tayler Tolefree (357) for second all-time on the Kansas career block assists list.
Kansas and Arkansas will look to put on the same intense display when the Jayhawks officially open their home schedule against the Razorbacks on Saturday inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. First serve is set for 1 p.m.
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