Kansas Comes Up Short in Five to U-23 Italy National Team
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers led the attack for the Jayhawks as they fell in a friendly exhibition match to the Italy U-23 National Team in five shortened sets, 21-18, 19-21, 10-21, 21-9, 11-15, Wednesday evening inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
Albers, who only played four sets, ignited the Kansas offense for a team-high 11 kills on a .296 hitting percentage, on a night the Kansas offense mustered just a .190 attack percentage. Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton picked up where she left off after the Kansas Invitational over the weekend, continuing her hot streak with 10 kills on the night. Senior setter Erin McNorton distributed the ball around on offense for a team high 23 assists in two sets.
After the first two sets, head coach Ray Bechard and his staff worked the entire roster into the match, taking advantage of the exhibition opportunity.
“It was fun, and it was good tonight to get the entire roster in there,” Bechard said. “We saw some good things out of Kara (Wehrs) and Maggie (Anderson) at the setter position. It was good to get Emma (Hanson) and Janae (Hall) out there for some extended time. Cathy (Carmichael) hasn’t seen a lot of time lately, so it was good to see them out there working together. We got what we wanted out of this match, obviously, it would’ve been nice to win it, but everybody got time and opportunities. That was one of the most important things for us.”
On the defensive side, redshirt freshman middle blocker Janae Hall had a match-high six blocks, while Albers rejected five Italian attacks of her own as KU out blocked Italy 10.5 to 10. Senior libero Brianne Riley led Kansas as she dug out 17 attacks from the high-powered Italian offense.
Italy was led by 6-7 Valentina Diouf, whose 19 kills led all players in the match. Her teammate, Laura Partenio was close behind her with 17, on her way to a .325 attack percentage on the night. They received passes on the evening from Letizia Camera, who led all players with 45 assists. Raphaela Folie and Sara Alberti had four blocks each, while Alberti recorded two solo rejections for Italy.
The Jayhawks jumped out to an early 7-4 lead to begin the match led by kills from McClinton . Italy responded and went on a 4-0 run after consecutive kills from Diouf, and back-to-back kills by Cristina Chirichella and Partenio, to make the score 10-8. KU weathered the early Italian attack to tie the score at 10 until back-to-back points from Italy made the score 12-10 going into the first media timeout. The Jayhawks reeled off a 4-0 run to regain the lead 14-13 until Italy retook the lead 15-14, in the midst of a 3-0 run on kills by Chirichella and Diouf. The teams battled late into the set, while Italy held an 18-17 advantage, until KU jumped out on a 4-0 run with a kill-block sequence by freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie. After kills from Albers and sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery KU went on to claim the first set 21-18.
Italy took an early 7-3 lead into the second set by way of a 4-0 run on a kill from Diouf, and two-straight Jayhawk attacks getting blocked. KU answered with a 4-0 run of its own led by kills from Jarmoc and McClinton to tie the score at 7-7. The teams continued to trade blows midway through the second set until an Albers kill put the Jayhawks up 12-11 heading into the timeout. The back-and-forth pace continued until a kill from Diouf and a service ace from Chicherlla put Italy up 15-13. The Italians looked to be in control of the set until KU came alive after going on a 3-0 run to take the lead 16-15 highlighted by a Jarmoc block, then a kill on the next point, following a long rally forcing Italy to take a timeout. Italy would regain their rhythm, capturing the lead 19-17 making KU take a timeout late in the set. The Jayhawk timeout bothered the Italian attack, as KU reeled off consecutive points while facing set point to make the score 20-19 forcing Italy to burn another timeout. A long rally ensued after the timeout, which Italy won on a kill by Partenio, taking the set 21-19, and tying the match at one set.
Italy began the third set on a 5-0 run led by two kills from Partenio and errors from the Jayhawks causing a KU timeout. The Jayhawks got on the board out of the timeout after a kill from Hall made the score 7-1. Kansas couldn’t find an answer for the Italian attack as Diouf recorded her 13th kill of the match to give Italy a comfortable 9-3 lead. KU struggled to find rhythm in the set after a service error from Soucie, Italy took a 12-4 lead into the timeout. The Jayhawks showed some life, scoring two-straight points out of the timeout and losing a battle to Italy in a long rally. Italy cruised out to a 4-0 run, forcing Kansas to take a timeout down 16-6. The set started to even out following the timeout with the teams trading points, but it was too little too late for the Jayhawks as the Italians took control of the match 2-1 after winning the set, 21-10.
The Jayhawks opened the fourth set with five-straight points, the first time KU recorded consecutive points since the second set, forcing Italy to take a timeout down 5-0. The hot streak continued following the timeout with KU rattling off two more points to go up 7-0 before Italy got on the board following a service error to make the score 7-1. Italy didn’t keep possession long, as KU built up a 12-2 lead going into the media timeout led by Albers who had three kills and a block during the span. After trading points for a few possessions, the Jayhawks took a 19-7 lead late in the set after a service ace from redshirt freshman Maggie Anderson. Diouf was held in check throughout the set, only registering two kills while making three attack errors and being blocked by the Jayhawk defense two times. KU had match point 20-9 before redshirt senior Catherine Carmichael recorded her fourth kill of the match, giving KU the set victory 21-9, and tying the match 2-2.
Neither team was able to gain an edge early in the fifth set as Italy clung to an early 5-2 lead until Albers made her 11th kill of the match to inch KU within two, 5-3. A block by Carmichael and Soucie tied the score at six in the midst of a 3-0 Jayhawk run. After a point by Italy, Soucie notched her fourth kill of the match to tie the score back at seven. The back-and-forth pace continued until Italy took two-straight points to go up 10-8. An Anderson kill brought KU within one, 10-9. With the score 11-9 after a Diouf kill, the teams battled through a long rally to see Italy’s Partenio record her 17th kill of the match while putting the Italians ahead 12-9 forcing a Jayhawk timeout. Back-to-back errors from both teams made the score 13-10, until Hall registered a kill causing Italy to take a timeout, nursing a 13-11 lead. Italy took the fifth set on consecutive points on an attack error, and a block on a Jayhawk attack, to win 15-11, and get the victory in the match, 3-2.
The match against the U-23 Italy National Team is classified as an exhibition, therefore, the match did not count towards team records, or individual season or career stats.
Kansas will open the Big 12 Conference season on Saturday, Sept. 28. The Jayhawks will host TCU at 1 p.m.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.