Kansas Stays Sharp, Sweeps Sam Houston State
DENVER, Colo. – Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers followed her efficient performance from the tournament opener with an even sharper round two as Kansas swept Sam Houston State to stay undefeated in the Pioneer Classic Saturday morning on the campus of the University of Denver, 25-15, 25-17, 25-16.
Although both weekend matches thus far resulted in 3-0 victories, Kansas (4-1) put together a much cleaner performance against Sam Houston State (4-2). The Jayhawks committed only one error in set one and two in the second frame to end the morning contest at a solid .356 attack efficiency. SHSU challenged the Jayhawks at times, but were wounded by a negative hitting percentage in set three and a .032 overall mark.
“That’s a good number,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “They didn’t have a team block either, which means we were making good shots and good choices. Ainise Havili distributed the ball well for us.”
On Friday, Albers led the team in the kills column and she did the same on Saturday morning – and upped her attack percentage by 100 points. The senior outside hitter offset her two errors with a match-high 11 kills, sparking a long line of Jayhawk leaders. Freshman middle blocker Kayla Cheadle led the defense with four blocks and added eight kills to that. Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery cranked out five kills without an error, while freshman Kelsie Payne and senior Sara McClinton also tallied five kills each.
Dealing the assists, freshman setter Ainise Havili chalked up 37 of them. Sophomore libero Cassie Wait set the tone in the back row with 13 digs and freshman defensive specialist Tori Miller dug six Bearkat attacks.
“That’s what we needed,” Bechard said. “We had good offensive balance and played almost everybody. We had people come in and have some good moments. Kelsie Payne came in and was good as were our other middles, Kayla Cheadle and Janae Hall. I was happy with the way Dock (Tiana Dockery) came in off the bench, Havili was good. I thought it was a solid performance.”
On the other side of the net, Kansas held the 2012 Southland Conference Player of the Year – senior outside hitter Deveney Well-Gibson – to six kills, which led the team.
After an ace-less performance on Friday, Havili served up KU’s first the morning to cap a 4-0 start in the opening set. The Jayhawks slammed on the gas with three quick kills from Albers and the lead grew. SHSU did narrow the gap to three points, but a 5-0 KU rally on the arms of Albers and Cheadle quickly doubled up the Bearkats at 18-9. At the 20-point mark, the streaking Jayhawks committed their one and only error of the set. Looking to put it away, freshman Claire Carpenter dug a hard shot and Havili sprinted over for a diving set. The save resulted in a McClinton kill and set point. Sophomore middle blocker Janae Hall put it away with the last kill. Six kills from Albers and a fiery .448 attack percentage helped KU claim set one with ease, 25-15.
Hall kicked off set two with a pair of early kills, but SHSU started the frame much better. Instead of facing a 4-0 deficit in which they started set one, the Bearkats took their first lead of the match. Kansas answered with kills from Dockery and Cheadle, setting up a more back-and-forth intensity that was missing from set one. Tied at 11-11, the Jayhawks picked up steam. Dockery came through with big swings, chalking up two kills in three points to give Kansas some room. Freshman outside hitter Madison Rigdon notched a kill and Miller aced a serve to increase the distance between themselves and the Bearkats. Albers crushed her 10th kill of the match to bring her squad to set point. Pausing the action, Sam Houston State called a last-second timeout. Trailing at one point, 6-8, Kansas finished the set on a 19-9 run to claim set two, 25-17.
Ready to put the match away, Kansas did not allow any room to Sam Houston in the final set. A barrage of KU kills opened a gaping 9-3 lead. Sam Houston used a timeout, pulling its players momentarily off the floor before resuming play and claiming the next two points. Though Kansas committed more attack errors through the first 13 points of set three than the team had in either of the first two sets, the momentum never left the side of the Jayhawks. Payne smashed a kill to bring KU to match point and a Bearkat attack error finished it.
- Head coach Ray Bechard collected career win No. 993 on Saturday against Sam Houston State.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton needs 127 kills to pass Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers’ .409 attack percentage (11K-2E-22TA) was a season-high.
- Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery also tallied a season-best attack percentage at .455 (5K-0E-11TA).
- Freshman defensive specialist Tori Miller recorded a career-high six digs.
- Freshman middle blocker Kayla Cheadle tied her career-high with eight kills.
Kansas plays the primetime match Saturday night against the host school, Denver. First serve is set for 8:30 p.m. CT.
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