Kansas Passes First Road Test, Downs Bradley 3-0
DENVER – Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton recorded her 1,000th career kill, while fellow senior Chelsea Albers led the charge for the offense as Kansas swept the Bradley Braves in the Friday afternoon match of the Pioneer Classic, hosted by the University of Denver, 25-15, 25-19, 25-20.
Kansas (3-1) fired out to a hot start against Bradley (0-4), hitting at a .323 clip while holding the Braves to a negative efficiency. Though the same efficiency lagged in sets two and three and Bradley came with a tougher attack, the Jayhawks closed the door for their second sweep of the season.
“I thought we played well in the first set and were pretty uneven through sets two and three,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Our passing wasn’t as crisp as we want it to be, and we credit Bradley for some of the things they were doing. We did do some really good things late in both sets two and three.”
McClinton’s milestone didn’t come on a particularly hot night for the two-time All-Big 12 First Teamer, but her five kills came when it counted. With the Braves fighting to extend the match, McClinton’s 1,000th was her final of the afternoon – putting Kansas up by two in the final set, 20-18.
“That’s really cool. Sara didn’t have her best match tonight, but she was still driving hard and taking heavy swings,” Bechard said. “That’s a testament to a really solid career and now we hope she piles up a whole bunch more on top of that.”
Fellow senior Chelsea Albers took over from there, racking up a pair of blocks and a kill to bring the Jayhawks to match point. A solo block from sophomore Janae Hall sealed the deal.
Albers led the floor with 12 kills and five blocks, tying her with Hall for the team lead at the net. Making her first start of the year, Hall added six kills to her blocking effort. Freshman outside hitter Madison Ridgon set the tone with a .444 attack percentage, rapping out 10 kills on 18 swings. Ainise Havili ran the offense from the setter position, tallying 37 assists. Sophomore libero Cassie Wait bested the floor with 17 digs.
Freshman Taylor Thiele led the Bradley offense with 10 kills and a .148 attack percentage. As a unit, the Braves were held to an .010 hitting mark, a season-low for KU opponents.
While Kansas jumped out to an early 5-1 advantage, it was quickly erased when service and attack errors knotted the score, 8-8. The Jayhawks needed a quick response and got it with kills from McClinton and Hall, sparking a 7-1 scoring run. The real hero of the set, however, came off the arm of Albers. Her fifth kill of the opening frame pushed the Kansas lead to 18-12, forcing Bradley’s last timeout. As Kansas held the Braves to a negative attack percentage (-.037), the freshmen trio of Kayla Cheadle, Rigdon and Kelsie Payne rolled the Jayhawks’ lead to double digits. KU cruised to a 25-15 win.
The middles got the second set rolling with Hall serving and Cheadle crushing an over pass back across the net to put Kansas up, 5-2. As they did in set one, the Braves came back to narrow the deficit in the early goings. KU’s outsides stepped in, this time from the back row. Albers set up Rigdon for a flawless back row attack, prompting another Bradley timeout as KU climbed in front, 9-6. Again, Bradley worked to tie the score, but Albers kept coming. She knocked down back-to-back kills to keep her team in front. When the Braves tied the score, 14-14, Albers slammed kill number nine.
An attack error handed Bradley its first lead of the match, and Kansas called a timeout in response. Errors continued to plague the Jayhawks, hitting a mere .084 midway through set two, allowing the Braves to stay in striking distance. The Jayhawks had all the room they needed, however, as McClinton and Cheadle closed the door with late kills. Kansas went up two sets to none with the 25-19 win.
McClinton’s 999th kill kicked off the third set, but Bradley made sure that KU momentum did not take hold. Almost at the midway mark, the Braves had pulled ahead by two, 13-11. The freshmen stepped it up as kills from Rigdon, Cheadle and Havili tagged kills to tie the score at 16-16. The seniors grabbed the reigns from there. After McClinton’s 1,000th, Albers added to her team-best performance with a solo block and a kill. She and Hall teamed up for a block to bring KU to match point, before Hall’s last block closed it out, 25-20.
- Head coach Ray Bechard collected career win No. 992 on Friday against Bradley.
- Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie’s consecutive-start streak stopped at 25-straight matches.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton needs 132 kills to pass Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list.
Kansas continues the Pioneer Classic against the Sam Houston State Bearkats Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.
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