No. 24 Kansas Downs Ivy League Champ Yale, 3-0
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Middle blockers Kayla Cheadle and Tayler Soucie caught fire to lead the offense in front of a 20-dig match from sophomore libero Cassie Wait, powering No. 24 Kansas to a sweep of Yale to mark the midway point of Villanova Classic Friday, 25-22, 25-15, 25-21.
Kansas (8-1) and the four-time defending Ivy League champion Yale (1-3) were fun to watch out of the gate. A closely-contested first set gave way to a more Jayhawk-heavy second frame as Kansas took at 2-0 lead into the break. Looking to extend the match, Yale came out swinging in the final set, but the Jayhawks held down the fort for their second sweep of the tournament and sixth-straight win.
“There were times tonight that we played our best volleyball,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We need to come out and play better after breaks – after timeouts and after intermission. We’re not responding quite as well in those points. There were stretches during the Yale match that we played as well as we’ve played all year.”
Through much of the early season, the Jayhawks have been led by their senior outside attacking core. Friday night, KU got the majority of its offensive push from the middle blockers. Cheadle led with 12 kills, while Soucie registered a career-high .652 attack percentage with her nine kills on 13 swings and no errors. Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers still did her thing, finishing the match just one kill away from a double-double with her nine-kill, 11-dig performance.
Soucie paced the defense with four blocks, while junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery blocked three. Behind them, sophomore libero Cassie Wait posted her fourth 20-dig effort of the year.
On the other side of the net, Yale’s senior outside hitter Mollie Rogers led all players with 13 kills but no other Bulldog tallied more than six. Eight matches into the season, Kansas has held all eight teams to under a .200 attack percentage.
The opening frame set the back-and-forth tone with freshman outside hitter Madison Rigdon and Soucie collecting the first trio of kills. By the midway mark, both teams were hitting above a .350 clip. Aside from service errors, both were playing solid volleyball until an ace from Soucie prompted a Yale timeout with the Jayhawks leading, 12-9. Back-to-back kills from Cheadle pushed the lead to five, but Yale kept pace. The Bulldogs had sliced the lead to two. Even a well-executed kill from Havili was soon erased by a Jayhawk attack error. Now leading only 22-21, KU needed a timeout. Cheadle came out of it and fired her sixth kill of the set and was immediately followed by shots from senior outside hitter Sara McClinton and Havili to close out set one, 25-22.
Determined to get a jump in set two, the Jayhawks fired out to a 7-2 start, capped by an Albers kill that caused an early Yale timeout. The Bulldogs came back to score three-straight and in no time the trading-point tempo resumed. As Yale put itself into position to close the gap, however, errors would turn the ball back over to the Jayhawks. They capitalized and ignited a 15-8 lead. Soucie tapped a heads-up kill over the defense and turned right around and slammed another and Kansas broke away, 19-12. A quick and powerful swing by freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne made for her first kill and her second swing shut the door on set one, 25-15.
Defense started the third set after a Wait hustled on the floor to keep a ball up, ultimately ending in a block for Soucie and junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery. The play put the Jayhawks up, 6-3, but this frame wouldn’t be a blowout. Following a kill from Yale to tie the score, Havili dove into the scorer’s table for a save which resulted in a Kansas point. The Bulldogs continued to find openings to stay within striking distance, including a kill from Kelly Johnson to cut their deficit to two, 18-16. Soucie and Albers sprang into action with back-to-back scores and Yale felt the oncoming pressure, taking a timeout trailing 20-16.
Yale’s resolve didn’t fade as the team erased an impressive diving dig from Havili, using the over-pass as an opportunity to strike and trim the lead to three, 22-19. That’s as close the Bulldogs would get. Dockery crushed a kill to bring her team to match point before Cheadle shut the door with her 12th and final kill of the night.
- Head coach Ray Bechard collected career win No. 997 on Friday against Yale.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton needs 86 kills to pass Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list.
- Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie broke her previous career-high in attack percentage (.600 vs. West Virginia, 11/6/13).
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili broke her three-match double-double streak in the win, but is on a four-match streak of collecting multiple kills.
- Freshman defensive specialist Addison Barry tied her career-high for the third time with eight digs.
- Kansas has held every opponent to less than a .200 attack percentage this season.
Saturday will prove as the ultimate non-conference test for Kansas, matching up against a fellow Sweet 16 team, American, at 9 a.m. CT and finishing the weekend with defending NCAA Champion, Penn State at 4:30 p.m. CT.
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