No. 9 Kansas Outlasts Baylor, 3-1
WACO, Texas – No. 9 University of Kansas volleyball maintained its undefeated status after withstanding a second-set challenge from Baylor on Wednesday night at Ferrell Center, 3-1 (25-21, 13-25, 25-20, 25-17). Kansas builds upon its program-record winning streak to improve to 18-0 and 6-0 in Big 12 Conference play.
After losing a set for just the fifth time this season, dropping the second set 25-13, the Jayhawks recovered for a 25-20 third-set win and 25-17 fourth-set victory.
“Baylor took the fight to us. Sometimes it is not going to be a pretty match, but we will take the effort,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “We feel good about the fact that Baylor took away a lot of the things that we wanted to do, but we still found a way to win.”
In front of a near-hometown crowd, sophomores Kelsie Payne (Austin, Texas) and Madison Rigdon (Pflugerville, Texas) paced the Jayhawks with 13 kills each. Fort Worth, Texas, native Ainise Havili posted her sixth double-double of the season with 34 assists and a team-high 13 digs.
“We had some good performances, but tonight it was the Jayhawks coming together as a team in the third and fourth sets that made the biggest difference,” Bechard said.
Kansas prevailed in the opening set, 25-21, which featured a season-high seven lead changes. An ace from junior Maggie Anderson broke the last tie of the set to give KU a 15-14 lead. KU would own the lead for the remainder of the first set, thanks in large-part to a kill and a block in consecutive plays from junior Tayler Soucie, which halted a 2-point Baylor run and brought KU to set point, 24-20. A Baylor attack on set point went long to give KU its 17th first-set victory in 18 matches.
Kansas lost a set for just the fifth time this season with the 25-13 second-set decision. The Jayhawks faced their largest deficit of the season during the loss, trailing by 13 points, 24-11. Baylor hit .533 in the second set while KU was held to a .094 hitting clip.
“At intermission we just made an intentional decision that we were going to play for each other,” Bechard said. “Our body language wasn’t great and we didn’t play as a team in the second set. When things are going great, it’s easy to be a good teammate. But they got it together and responded very well in the third and fourth sets. Everybody picked up their level of play toward the end.”
Much like the first set, Kansas and Baylor battled closely to a 5-5 tie to begin the third set. Payne gave KU a go-ahead 6-5 lead by putting away an overpass, but Coach Bechard’s first challenge of the season proved to be the big momentum swing. Senior Tiana Dockery’s serve at 6-5 was originally called out near the baseline, but after the referees got a second look at the video replay, an ace was credited to Dockery, which gave KU a 7-5 lead. After the successful challenge, KU went on a 6-2 run for a 13-7 lead.
The Jayhawks went on to take the third set, 25-20, led by Soucie’s five third-set kills on six swings.
With the score tied, 9-9, in the fourth set, Kansas separated with a 5-1 run and eventually clinched the match with a 25-17 fourth-set win. The Jayhawks posted a .370 hitting percentage in the fourth set, while holding Baylor to a .069 clip behind five blocks. Payne and Rigdon led KU with four kills each in the fourth set, recording just one attacking error between them.
After bottoming-out with just eight kills on a .094 hitting percentage and a 37-percent sideout rate in a second set, Kansas rebounded in the third and fourth sets with a combined 28 kills on a .303 hitting percentage, and a 78-percent sideout rate to close out the match.
“We didn’t perform well in the areas that we usually perform well in – serving, offensive balance – but we found a way to win,” Bechard concluded. “That’s a good quality in a team. But on the backside of that, we have to remember how we got to this point and how we need to improve every match.”
The Jayhawks take their 18-match winning streak into a weekend bye before playing host to Oklahoma on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
• KU-BU SERIES: Baylor leads the all-time series, 22-20. Kansas has won seven of the last eight, including five straight.
• UNDEFEATED: At 18-0, Kansas continues its best start in program history and longest overall winning streak. The previous best start was 10-0 in 2001, and the previous longest winning streak was 15 matches in 1991. Kansas is one of two undefeated teams in NCAA Division I volleyball (USC).
• SET DOMINANCE: KU’s set record improves to 54-5. Wednesday marked the first set loss since opening Big 12 Conference play with a four-set win over K-State (9/23). KU is 17-1 in first sets this season, including 15 consecutive first-set wins. The Jayhawks have yet to play a five-set match this season.
• BLOCKS SEASON HIGH: Kansas tied a season-high 11.0 team blocks, led by Tayler Soucie’s six block-assists. KU also recorded 11.0 blocks against Northern Colorado (9/11) in a four-set match.
• CHALLENGING: A total of four coaches challenges were used on Wednesday night – three from Baylor and one from Kansas. KU’s lone challenge was overturned, while Baylor overturned one of three opportunities.
• KILLS: Baylor is the first opponent to record more kills that KU in a match this season, outgaining the Jayhawks, 51 to 48.
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