Second-Ranked Texas Holds Off Kansas Threat, 3-1
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Vying to knock off the Longhorns for the first time since 2003, the Jayhawks kicked into gear in the third set but not in time to shake off the two-set deficit already stacked against them. The No. 2 Texas Longhorns entered a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Sunday afternoon and defeated Kansas in four sets, 14-25, 20-25, 25-20, 21-25.
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers continued her strong Big 12 Conference play for Kansas (12-5, 0-3), by leading the Jayhawks in kills (17) and pacing the Jayhawks in sets two and three with 11 kills on 19 swings. Three matches into conference action, she ranks among the top-five Big 12 attackers with 4.14 kills per set. Against Texas (11-0, 3-0), she was joined by junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery’s 12 kills.
On Fox Sports, KU’s first national television broadcast of the season, the Jayhawks fell behind early to the back-to-back-to-back Big 12 champions and went to intermission down two sets to none. The Jayhawks caught fire out of the break, out-hitting the Longhorns in set three to force a fourth set. Fighting to extend the match even further, KU jumped out to a 4-0 lead to kick off set four, before the second-best team in the country shut down the comeback effort. Texas entered the day with sweeps against seven of its 10 opponents, the Jayhawks were determined they wouldn’t be another.
“I thought Texas looked as good as anybody we’ve played,” head coach Ray Bechard said about playing the two of the top-three teams in the country already this season (No. 3 Penn State). “They’ve got a two-time All-American in Haley Eckerman and we were able to manage her today and then Khat Bell gets away from us, that’s what good teams do. If somebody is going to take away (Chelsea) Albers for us, then somebody else has got to step up. They played at a nice level and we played at a nice level – they just played at that level longer than we did.”
Freshman setter Ainise Havili ran the offense while collecting her eighth double-double on the season, notching a match-high 41 assists coupled with 11 digs. Sophomore libero Cassie Wait lead the floor in digs with 26, just one shy of her career-high (27) and freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne led the team with six blocks on the afternoon.
Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery posted
double-digit kills for the second-straight match.Overlooking the sold-out Kansas crowd, the Longhorns started the match strong. Senior All-Americans Haley Eckerman and Khat Bell led the charge with nine of the team’s 15 kills en route to a 25-14 win. Bell finished the match with 15 kills, the only Longhorn with double-digit kills in the match, on a .565 attack percentage. Eckerman was behind her with nine kills, but the home team held her to a .114 attack percentage.
Texas opened the second set by scoring the first two points, but it was Kansas who made the first big run. Payne, Dockery and Albers blasted a sequence of kills to spark a 4-0 rally. Both squads went back-and-forth, trading points until a 5-0 Texas run lifted the Longhorns to a 14-10 lead and forced KU to burn a timeout. After the stoppage, Albers blasted a pair of kills, freshman defensive specialist Addison Barry aced a serve and Dockery blocked a shot, electrifying the packed building by tying the score, 14-14, and forcing Texas to call timeout. The Jayhawks were unable to sustain momentum, as four-straight Texas points provided a comfortable 22-17 cushion and eventually the 25-20 win.
After the intermission, Texas notched the first point of the set, but the Jayhawks maintained control at 10-8. When Barry aced her second serve of the match, Kansas turned up the intensity. Albers and Dockery each notched a pair of kills and forced Texas into using its last time out, trailing 16-10. Moments later, KU broke away from the Longhorns with a trio of kills from Albers, Havili and McClinton, pushing the lead to eight, 20-12. Texas slowly fought back, but Albers slammed the door shut with a final kill, giving Kansas the set, 25-20.
With momentum riding on Kansas’ side, Havili brought the Horejsi crowd to its feet by serving back-to-back aces to open the fourth set. KU kept coming with consecutive blocks from Albers, Payne and McClinton, fueling Kansas to a quick 4-0 advantage. Texas flexed, battling its way back to regain the lead with six-consecutive points. KU then countered with four of the next five, cutting the lead down to one, 15-14, but Texas halted any chance for KU to bring the match into the decisive fifth set. The Longhorns buckled down to take the set, 25-21.
- The Kansas-Texas match was KU’s first Fox Sports Network national broadcast at home in program history. KU was nationally televised from home last season against Baylor (ESPNU) and will be on ESPNU again later this season (at Iowa State, 10/22).
- Known for giving opponents zero leeway in matches, Texas had swept seven of its 10 opponents before coming to Lawrence. Despite its 0-2 deficit, KU refused to be swept. In fact, KU has been swept just twice in the last 62 matches (No. 5 Washington; No. 3 Penn State).
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton needs 24 kills to pass Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list.
- This is the first time KU has opened the Big 12 season at 0-3 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 eighth double-double of the year (41 assists/11 digs).
- Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne has started the last five matches and led the Jayhawks in blocks in all five of them, including six against Texas.
- Freshman defensive specialist Addison Barry tied her career-high with two aces.
- Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery posted double-digit kills in consecutive matches for the first time this season (10 vs. Kansas State; 12 vs. Texas).
Kansas continues its abnorma-day conference schedule with a Friday, Oct. 10 match at Baylor. First serve is 7 p.m. from Waco, Texas.
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