Kansas Wins Epic Comeback at No. 25 Wisconsin, 3-2

Kansas 3, No. 25 Wisconsin 2
UW Fieldhouse  // Madison, Wis.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Kansas 22 21 25 25 17
Wisconsin 25 25 20 21 15

Box Score (.pdf)

Statistical Leaders
Kansas Wisconsin
Riley – 28 Digs Thomas – 19
McNorton – 58 Assists Carlini – 50
Dockery – 21 Kills Morales/Chapman – 17
McClinton – ..282 Hit % Morales – .273
Jarmoc – 7 Blocks Thompson – 6
Stats Comparison KU UW
Kills 68 60
Hitting Pct. .225 .168
Assists 65 57
Service Aces 1 3
Digs 76 72
Total Blocks 12.0 9.0

MADISON, Wis. – ‘Let’s Go Red’ was deafening. The crowd of nearly 3,500 had no interest in watching Kansas pull off the feat the Jayhawks were fighting for. Trailing two sets to none only an hour earlier, Chelsea Albers and Tayler Soucie struck the final blow when their block sealed the comeback victory against No. 25 Wisconsin in the primetime match of the InnTowner Invitational, Friday night inside the UW Field House, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 17-15.
Kansas (6-3) was pitted against a Wisconsin (6-1) squad that returned to Madison Friday to open the season at home as an undefeated, ranked team. The Badgers entered the poll at No. 25 on Monday, their first national ranking since the 2008 season. What’s more, the Badgers finished last season in the nation’s top-10 in attendance – they picked up where they left off in Friday’s home opener as the Jayhawks were met with the biggest crowd they’ve seen since hosting the NCAA Tournament in Allen Fieldhouse last December.
The crowd only amplified the epic rally the Jayhawks put together. Down two sets to none, Kansas charged back to win the next three sets – the Jayhawks’ first 0-2 comeback victory since Sept. 20, 2008 vs. Iowa State.
“We gave ourselves chances in the first two sets and breaks didn’t go our way,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Then they made a decision at the break that they were going to make their own breaks – that’s what they did. They came out, fought hard and controlled sets three and four. And that’s about as epic of a fifth set that you’ll see. Wisconsin was serving two times for the match and we fought them off for a big, big road win.”
Sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery was sensational once again, breaking the season-high she set earlier that day by the end of the second set. Her career-high 21 kills marked KU’s first 20-kill match of the season. Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc was big with 17 kills and led the floor with seven blocks. Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton rounded out the offensive leaderboard with 14 kills and a team-high .282 attack percentage.
Everyone stepped up when called upon in the balanced team effort. Senior setter Erin McNorton tied a season-high with 58 assists, while senior libero Brianne Riley set a new season high with her 28 digs. Defensive specialists Jaime Mathieu (16) and Cassie Wait (10) and Albers (10) all dug double-digit attacks as KU both out-dug (76-72) and out-blocked (12.0-9.0) the Badgers.
Dockery and Jarmoc strung together a trio of kills to erase a quick 5-1 deficit in the first set. Midway through the first set, both teams were swinging better than .400, but a slight 14-11 Wisconsin lead warranted a timeout from KU’s bench. Jarmoc and the Jayhawks worked hard, cutting the deficit to one thanks to a solo block and later a kill from the redshirt senior.
Wisconsin did its best to put it out of reach, taking a 19-16 lead, but Kansas clawed back. A block Soucie and McClinton started the rally. A hustle play for the ages followed that, complete with the entire Jayhawk lineup hitting the floor to prevent the ball from doing the same. When Dockery sent the ball over for the kill, KU had pulled within one and forced a Badger timeout at 19-18. Again, UW surged ahead, building a four-point lead on its way to set point. Jarmoc came at them, slamming down three kills after seeing her team fall behind 23-19, but the Badgers claimed the 25-22 first-set win.
Set two started much the same, with aggressiveness and hustle setting the tone, while Dockery continued to play red-hot. Her 10th tied the set at 12. Long, athletic rallies made for a great show for the fans on hand and KU found a way to break free for a 17-15 edge, forcing a Wisconsin timeout.
The Badgers roared back, putting together a 6-1 run to swing back in front, 21-18. Although the score still reflected the closeness of the set, Wisconsin had flipped the switch. When a Jarmoc kill brought it within two, 22-20, the Jayhawks were right back in it, but would score only once more. Wisconsin took the heavy 2-0 lead to the locker room with a 25-21 win.
Shaking off the weight of a 2-0 deficit, Kansas sprinted out to a 10-5 lead to start the third set. After a Wisconsin timeout, the Jayhawks kept their foot on the gas. Showing incredible hustle out of the back row, Wait ran down a ball out of bounds and Riley dove to get it over and force a Badger attack error – pushing KU to its largest lead of the night, 16-9.
Armed with a fighter mentality, Kansas continued to do just that. The Jayhawks held Wisconsin to a measly .023 hitting percentage, while getting multiple kills from five of their own players. This time, KU held off the Badgers rallies that they had succeeded with in sets one and two and kept surging ahead until forcing a fourth set with the 25-20 victory.
Wisconsin came out with a 3-0 run, which KU immediately answered to kick off the fourth set in the same thrilling fashion as the first three. Service errors began to take hold, pestering both teams through the first 10 points of the frame. Nevertheless, KU climbed in front thanks to a pair of hard swings from McClinton and a heads up play by Soucie, and Kansas took a 12-10 edge.
After tacking on two more points, Wisconsin used a timeout trailing 14-10. The visitors refused to let up. Even after the Badgers erased a 16-12 deficit to bring the set within a single point multiple times, the Jayhawks had an answer. Hanging onto an 18-17 lead, McClinton crushed a ball to widen the gap. A crucial ace from Riley put the Jayhawks in front, 21-18, and Wisconsin used its final timeout of the frame.
It didn’t work. The nearly impossible was about to go down. Kills from Jarmoc and Dockery brought the Jayhawks to set point and a Badger attack error forced the epic fifth set.
When the fifth set started, KU had the fuel it needed. Wisconsin predictably fought off the Jayhawks and even took the 14-13 lead. After overcoming all they had, however, match point didn’t faze the Jayhawks. Kills from McClinton tied the set 14-14 and 15-15, before KU forced an attack error on set point. Albers and Soucie’s block put it away and KU walked away with its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
-Friday: vs. Milwaukee – W, 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-10)
-Friday: at No. 25 Wisconsin – W, 3-2 (22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 17-15)
-Saturday: vs. Bowling Green – 1 p.m. CT
– Senior libero Brianne Riley recorded a season-high 28 digs to move closer to eighth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (1,674), currently held by former Nebraska standout Kayla Banwarth (1,706; 2007-10).
– Riley now has double-digit digs in 35-consecutive matches.
– Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc’s 1,079 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 Friday was the 87th of her career, tying Amanda Reves (87; 1986-89) for third all-time on the Kansas career solo blocks list.
– Jarmoc’s seven total blocks also pulled her closer to the KU all-time blocks leader. Her 460 career blocks ranks second only to Amanda Reves (514; 1996-99).
Kansas will conclude the InnTowner Invitational on Saturday against Bowling Green. First serve is set for 1 p.m. CT.
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