Kansas Up and Down in Loss at No. 24 Creighton, 3-1
OMAMA, Neb. – Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie slammed three block assists on her record-setting night to help Kansas fight off match point seven times against the nationally-ranked Bluejays, but Creighton walked away with the victory on Tuesday inside the D.J. Sokol Arena, 21-25, 25-15, 17-25, 27-29.
Kansas (4-3) saw both ends of the spectrum against Creighton (5-1), who defeated the Jayhawks for the first time in the series history. After dropping the first set, KU went on to play arguably its best volleyball of the season in set two. The Jayhawks’ 13 kills and zero errors in the frame came out to a .650 attack percentage, KU’s highest in a set since Aug. 28, 2006 when the Jayhawks hit .739 in the second set against Alabama A&M.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, that momentum didn’t last. Creighton regained the lead with a win in the third set, and in the fourth, KU found itself facing a 24-20 match-point situation. Still fighting, Kansas scored four-straight points to tie the set. Huge efforts at the net, led by Soucie, along with a pair of crucial kills from junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers saw KU tie the set at 25-25, 26-26 and 27-27 as they battled to force a fifth set. Back-to-back Creighton kills, however, ended KU’s rally.
“We were not really focused in the first set and then we played maybe our best set of the year,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “But then you’ve got to come out of the locker room and back that up. Obviously, we didn’t have them ready in set three. We battled a little bit in set four, but you can’t dig a hole like that. It’s just disappointing that we can’t play more consistently at a high level against a good opponent.”
Soucie’s blocking provided a bright spot as the rookie collected 12 block assists on the evening, breaking KU’s previous match record of 11, set by teammate Caroline Jarmoc last season. Soucie’s blocking teacher started her 100th-consecutive match on Tuesday night, and the redshirt senior middle blocker played like a veteran All-American in the opening set, racking up eight kills and one error. The hot streak didn’t hold much longer as Creighton quieted Jarmoc to just four more kills for the rest of the night.
The Jayhawks out-blocked the Bluejays, 18-16, but Creighton had the upper hand nearly everywhere else. Other than the .650 set, KU’s attack efficiency was poor, tying a season-high 26 errors on a season-low .166 hitting percentage.
In her first start since leaving the UMKC match with an injury, Albers was another highlight on the evening. She ended the night with 11 kills, nine digs, tied her career high with eight blocks and led the team with a .348 attack percentage. Jarmoc (12) and junior outside hitter Sara McClinton (11) joined Albers in double-digits.
Senior Erin McNorton dished out 44 assists, and dropped in two kills, an ace and seven digs. Fellow senior Brianne Riley collected 20-plus digs for the third-straight match with a match-high 22.
Creighton came out strong in the opening frame, taking early command with a 6-1 lead. Jarmoc made sure it was short lived. She rattled off five kills within KU’s first seven points and the Jayhawks quickly slashed the deficit, 8-7. Another Jarmoc kill squared up the scoreboard at 10, preparing the crowd for the back-and-forth battle to come. Soucie swung hard for a kill to bring her team within one, 18-17, but Creighton surged forward with a 4-0 run to prompt a Kansas timeout.
Trailing by five, McClinton and Jarmoc each notched kills to close the gap, 23-20. Even with Jarmoc hitting a sky-high .700 in the set, the team hit just .214 and KU lost the first set, 25-21.
A service error gave KU its first lead of the match to start the second set and back-to-back kills for sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery helped the Jayhawks keep it, 11-7, forcing Creighton to use its first timeout. Soucie and Albers stepped up for a big block and Dockery landed another kill to open up the largest lead for either team through that point of the evening, 16-10. After Creighton used a timeout trailing 19-13, the Jayhawks refused to let up and sailed to a 25-15 win.
With the momentum on the Jayhawks’ side, the teams seemingly switched place during the break as Creighton stormed out to an 11-3 lead to kick off the third set. Though Kansas continued to get solid production out of Dockery and its blocking game, Creighton capitalized on multiple Jayhawk attack errors. After KU put on its best offensive performance in years in set two, KU hit for -.073 in the third. Consecutive missed swings saw KU fall behind, 19-10. On the back of a clutch blocking effort from Albers and Soucie, Kansas charged at the Creighton lead. They got as close as 21-17 before the Jays closed out the set, 25-17.
In the fourth, Creighton’s 5-1 run reversed the small lead that the Jayhawks started the frame with and the teams knotted up, 8-8. The two held each other within one or two points reach for much of the set until an Albers show sparked three-straight points. The junior registered a kill, a block and an ace to put Kansas in front, 16-13.
Creighton called a timeout following Albers’ run and promptly tied the score with a 3-0 run. Dockery and McClinton pulled the Jayhawks back in front, 18-16. KU hung right with the home team through the 20-point mark until the Jays suddenly pulled away, all but sealing the match with a 24-20 lead.
The Jayhawks went to work, getting a kill from Albers while Dockery and Soucie all guarded the net for three-consecutive blocks to tie the set, 24-24. Kills from Albers tied the set at 25 and 26, while Dockery lodged the last one to tie the score, 27-27. Creighton responded one last time with two-consecutive kills to end the set – and the match – 29-27.
– Senior libero Brianne Riley recorded her third-straight 20-dig match against Creighton, which moves her closer to eighth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (1,634), currently held by former Nebraska standout Kayla Banwarth (1,706; 2007-10).
– Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc’s 1,057 career kills are the second-most among current Big 12 players. She trails fellow senior Kaitlynn Pelger from Kansas State.
– Jarmoc’s one solo block on Tuesday was the 84th of her career, passing former KU volleyball player Tammy Hill (83; 1984-87) for fourth all-time on the Kansas career solo blocks list.
Kansas will wrap up its tough stretch of nine-of-10 road matches to start this season at the Inntowner Invitational hosted by Wisconsin, Sept. 13-14. The Jayhawks will face Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Bowling Green in the weekend tournament.
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