Five-Set Sunflower Showdown Goes to Kansas State
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the second time in as many matches, Kansas went five sets against a Big 12 Conference foe. And, for the second time, the fifth set went in favor of the opposition as the Jayhawks snapped a four-match win streak against its in-state rival Kansas State, Wednesday night in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, 19-25, 25-23, 25-14, 22-25, 8-15.
Kansas (12-4, 0-2) was on pace to pick up its first Big 12 win on the season, but the Wildcats (14-2, 1-1) battled back from a 2-1 deficit to steal the win in five, giving KU an 0-2 start to league play for the first time since 2011.
Senior Chelsea Albers registered a team-high 17 kills, coupled with 11 digs to pick up her fourth double-double on the season. Albers paced the Jayhawks in the third set by tallying a flawless six kills on six swings to power a 25-14 win, in what was the only lopsided frame of the match until the Wildcats sucked the momentum from the building in the fifth set.
Ignoring the sold-out Kansas crowd, the Wildcats proceeded to swing for eight kills and no errors to run away with the final frame, 15-8. What started as a Kansas comeback after the Jayhawks dropped the first set, evolved into a 2-1 Kansas lead and, finally, a heartbreaking five-set loss. Every point was a fight with diving digs and constant blocks at the net altering every shot. Kansas won the blocks and digs columns, and even tallied five more kills on the night, but the end result still went to the Wildcats.
“K-State wanted to win, Kansas wanted to win,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We have to treat every match similar to that in how we play. We haven’t been consistent enough and been competitive in the right times. I guess as a neutral observer, it would be a fun match to watch. Obviously, it wasn’t the result we were hoping for.”
Joining Albers on the leaderboard, freshman setter Ainise Havili eclipsed 50 assists for the fourth time on the season (52), and registered her seventh double-double with 14 digs on the night. Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery notched her first double-double on the season, tallying 10 kills and 16 digs. Freshman outside hitter Madison Rigdon aced two serves, while sophomore libero Cassie Wait lead Kansas with 18 digs.
Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton knocked down 12 kills and a season-high five blocks. After leading the attack efficiency at Oklahoma, freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne led the Jayhawks in blocks (7) and attack percentage (.444) and tied her career-high with 12 kills, showing rapid signs of growth as the conference portion of the season gets underway.
“This team will be ready,” Bechard said. “It doesn’t get easier on Sunday, doesn’t get any easier the Friday after that. We have 14 matches ahead of us just like the two we saw. We’ve got to flip the switch in a couple areas to get different results.”
Outside hitter Kylee Zumach, KSU’s first player to earn the Big 12 Freshman of the Week award three times, led the Wildcat offense with 18 kills. Backing her up, sophomore outside hitter Brooke Sassin racked up 15 kills. As a team, KSU hit .227 to out-do KU’s .222.
Kansas State began the match strong, connecting on several kills, building a quick 4-1 lead. Kansas kept pace when Rigdon aced her 22nd serve on the season, which ignited five-straight points for the Jayhawks. Kansas followed suit with a 3-0 run, snatching a 14-10 lead, and forcing Kansas State to call timeout. Following the break, K-State came out on a mission, streaking out to five-straight points, and retaking the lead, 16-15. Another Wildcats run would finish the Jayhawks in the first set, 25-19.
Both squads battled it out through the opening portion of set two. Knotted up at 9-9, no team was able to capture control until Kansas registered nine of the next 13 points, soaring to an 18-13 lead and forcing a Kansas State timeout. Moments later, a timely block from sophomore Tayler Soucie and a powerful kill from Albers put Kansas ahead 20-15 and forcing another KSU timeout. Following the stoppage in action, K-State slowly crawled back into the match, cutting the deficit to one, 23-22. Albers returned to the match making sure the Jayhawks wouldn’t fall behind 0-2. She smashed a kill and forced Kansas State into an attack error, gutting out a 25-23 win.
Following intermission, the battle resumed. Several long rallies, athletic digs and frequent ties highlighted the opening portion of the set. Squared up 10-10, Payne and Albers smashed a pair of kills, sparking the largest run of the night with seven-straight points, propelling KU to a 17-10 lead. Two plays later, Payne rose up and hammered down another kill, giving Kansas a comfortable 20-11 lead. From there, Kansas coasted to the win. Havili gently lofted the ball over the net for her second kill, and freshman defensive specialist Tori Miller followed suit up with an ace, lifting Kansas 25-14.
Kansas State quickly forgot about its third set struggles as an early 4-0 run put the KSU ahead 5-3. Both teams traded points for a majority of the fourth set until the Wildcats stormed off five straight points, seizing an 18-13 lead and forcing a KU timeout. Dockery stepped up her efforts to deliver back-to-back kills and energize the Horjesi crowd, cutting the lead to one, 18-17. However, a late 3-0 run by the Wildcats elevated their lead to four, 24-20 and eventually the set 25-22.
Kansas State carried its momentum into the fifth set by racing to a quick 9-5 lead and forcing the Jayhawks to call a timeout. After the break, Soucie and Dockery each tallied a kill cutting into the lead, 9-7. Dockery landed another kill several plays later, but it wouldn’t prove to be enough. The Wildcats then logged five straight points to steal the match from Kansas, 15-8.
- Five players tallied double-digit digs for the first time this season. The last such occurrence came against Creighton in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton needs 30 kills to pass Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list. She recorded double-digit kills against Kansas State, the 55th time in her career that she’s tallied 10 or more.
- KU has played three five-set matches this season. All three times, the Jayhawks held a lead, all three resulted in losses.
- This is the first time KU has opened the Big 12 season with a loss since 2011. Kansas started 2012 5-0 in conference play and went 4-0 to start in 2013.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili picked up her sevent double-double of the year (52 assists/14 digs).
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers racked up the 11th double-double of her career, fourth of 2014 (17 kills/11 digs).
- Freshman defensive specialist Addison Barry recorded a career-high 10 digs.
Kansas stays at home to welcome the back-to-back-to-back Big 12 Champion No. 2 Texas Longhorns to Lawrence. KU and UT will face off on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. The sold-out match will air on Fox Sports Southwest.
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