No. 24 Kansas Captures Jayhawk Classic Crown
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Behind a career-best 20 kills from freshman outside hitter Madison Rigdon, Kansas powered its way past Arkansas Saturday night inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, 25-16, 25-11, 27-29, 25-18.
Sophomore libero Cassie Wait took home Tournament MVP honors for the first time in her career, while freshman setter Ainise Havili earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team, her third such honor in her four-week career. The duo kept Kansas (12-2) consistent all weekend, guiding the team to its third tourney title through the four weeks of the pre-conference season.
“Eighty percent of that was really pretty good stuff. That’s a team that should get us ready for Big 12 play with their physicality and the way they play,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “So I’d say we would get a ‘B’ or ‘B+’ for our pre-conference schedule and the way we handled it. We won three of four tournaments, and took second in the other to the defending national champions, so I’ve seen some growth. Now it gets even more serious with what we have in front of us.”
Freshman outside hitter Madison Rigdon led
Kansas with a career-best 20 kills.
The Jayhawks open Big 12 play on the road at Oklahoma on Sept. 27. KU was voted to finish second in the preseason coaches’ poll, the highest selection for the Jayhawks in league history.
Rigdon controlled the floor, slating 20 kills and nine digs for Kansas. Fellow freshman Kelsie Payne shadowed her teammate, tallying career-highs with 12 kills and seven blocks on the night. Havili distributed the offense by eclipsing the 50-assist mark for the second time on the season (51) en route to her sixth double-double. Her 12 digs were second only to Wait’s match-high 26. Freshman middle blocker Kayla Cheadle joined the leaderboard with 12 kills as did senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers with 10 kills, four blocks, eight digs and a season-high two aces.
KU held Arkansas (6-7) star, and All-Tournament Team member, Meredith Hays to 13 kills and no other Razorback tallied more than four. The Jayhawk defense held their opponent to a season-low .008 attack percentage.
A relentless opening attack from Rigdon and Cheadle powered the Jayhawks in the opening set. Rigdon blasted two kills and an ace to electrify the Jayhawks to a quick 6-1 lead. Cheadle followed suit with a pair of back-to-back kills of her own, but four-straight points from Arkansas reduced KU’s lead to two, 11-9. Kansas refused to let momentum swing to the opposition. Rigdon connected on a series of kills to ignite three-straight KU points, growing the lead to six, 20-14. Cheadle paired two kills with a block and carried the Jayhawks to the finish line of set one, winning 25-16.
An early Jayhawk deficit didn’t intimidate Kansas in set two. Falling behind 5-3, Kansas went on run after run to seize control. Kansas registered two 4-0 runs, one 3-0 run and a set-clinching 9-0 run. An ace from Albers gave KU its first lead of the set 6-5 and it was smooth sailing from there. A couple of kills from junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery and several blocks at the net positioned Kansas up 14-7. It didn’t take long for the Jayhawks to clinch the set from there, as nine straight points stunned the Razorbacks, 25-11.
Arkansas stunned KU right back after the break as most of the third set went back-and-forth between the two squads. Albers paced the Jayhawks early with an ace and a kill to keep Kansas tied, 5-5, however, Kansas didn’t claim its first lead until a 3-0 run, featuring an ace by Rigdon, put them up 12-10. Arkansas managed to answer with a run of its own, forcing a Kansas timeout and propelling them back into the lead, 19-16. Kansas scored on six of the next seven points to reclaim a 22-20 lead, but Arkansas twice fought back from match point and forced a fourth set, claiming a 29-27 win.
Set four saw a see-saw fight commence, but Kansas pulled away late to negate any chance for an Arkansas comeback. Behind a sequence of kills from Rigdon, Kansas was able to maintain a three-point lead through the beginning portion of the set, governing a 13-10 advantage. Back-to-back aces from the Wildcats highlighted a 3-0 run, which tied the score at 13-13, but a fast reply from the Jayhawks placed them back on top 21-15. A solo block and a monster kill from Havili created the last bit of energy needed to seal the deal. From there the fired-up Kansas squad saw Rigdon, Albers and Payne tee off on kills to coast the Jayhawks to a 25-18 win.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili picked up her sixth double-double of the year (51 assists/12 digs).
- Fellow freshman Madison Rigdon was only one dig short of her first career double-double, but did post her first 20-kill performance. She led the Jayhawks on the weekend with 46 kills.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait recorded 20-plus digs for the sixth time this season.
- Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery tallied a season-high five blocks.
No. 24 Kansas will open the Big 12 Conference season on the road when the Jayhawks travel to Norman, Oklahoma to face the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, Sept. 27. First serve is set for 7 p.m.
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