Kansas Shakes First Set to Upend West Virginia, 3-1
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – What started as a blocking landslide and a first-set win for West Virginia was quickly rerouted as Kansas won the next three sets to win inside the WVU Coliseum Wednesday night, 19-25, 25-10, 25-20, 25-22.
Kansas (14-5, 2-3) looked shaken in the waning points of the first set at West Virginia (12-8, 2-4). Held to an .098 hitting percentage after an 8.0-2.0 blocking advantage, KU lost the first set for just the fifth time this season. The Jayhawks couldn’t have responded any louder in set two, shelling out 13 kills on 25 swings and holding WVU to a mere five to win in a walk, 25-10. Out of the break, West Virginia did not allow a repeat of the second set, but Kansas never lost control.
“We’ve been out here in past years and lost the first set before, but this year it was with our youngest team against their best team,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “So they way that they responded with a 25-10 win in the very next set was key.”
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers was a major factor in the turnaround and led the team with 15 kills, which added to her 11 digs made for her fifth double-double of the year. Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie cracked the double-digit mark for the first time in 2014, tallying 11 kills and no errors for a match-high .500 attack percentage. Soucie set the example for freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne, who put up a nine-kill, one-error night. Together they led the Jayhawks at the net as Soucie rejected six shots and Payne, five. They helped flip an 8.0-2.0 WVU blocking advantage in set one into a 12.0-12.0 tie by the end of the night.
“Soucie really got going with the block tonight as did Kelsie Payne and Chelsea Albers,” Bechard said. “That really impacts the match when you can score points off the block in a dominant fashion. It throws the offense off of what they’re trying to do. Obviously, they did that to us in the first set, but it was 10.0-4.0 in our favor after that. That’s a solid adjustment.”
Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton was the third Jayhawk in double figures, picking up 10 kills on the evening. While freshman setter Ainise Havili snapped her double-double streak, which was up to three-straight, she still had a complete performance with 47 assists, six digs and three kills. Sophomore libero Cassie Wait came up with 22 digs, her eighth match of the year with 20-plus saves.
In the early goings of the first set, a 7-1 run by the Mountaineers deleted Kansas’ winning four of the first five points. While Soucie halted the rally with a kill, WVU charged ahead with four more points, 11-7. Out of the media timeout, McClinton came through with a pair of big swings to knot the score at 16-16, before the Mountaineers again broke away with a string of points. Back-to-back rejections by the home team put Kansas down, 23-19. By the end of the frame, West Virginia recorded a remarkable eight team blocks and ran away with the 25-19 win.
Determined to even the score, the Jayhawks sprinted out to a 9-4 lead in set two on Madison Rigdon ace and another kill from McClinton. Two more from McClinton backed by Mountaineer attack errors put the Jayhawks in control. Following a WVU timeout, Kansas rolled out an incredible 11-0 run with Havili at the serving line. Albers, Soucie and McClinton could do no wrong as the trio, and the rest of the Jayhawks, possessed a 20-6 lead by the time WVU finally stopped the rally. Hitting at a .385 attack percentage compared to WVU’s -.111, KU cruised to a 25-10 victory – the fewest points that KU has allowed to an opponent all season – to go to the break tied at a set apiece.
The back-and-forth style returned in set three as the Mountaineers refused to go down in the same fashion the cost them set two. KU middles Soucie and Payne caught fire to build a small advantage, 12-9, before WVU answered with three scores of its own. Leading by two at the media timeout, McClinton came out with a kill and Rigdon added her only ace of the evening. Although the Jayhawks found themselves in comfortably in front, 20-15, that cushion was quickly cut to 22-20. This time it was Rigdon who stepped up late, cracking off consecutive kills to bring her team to set point. After a Mountaineer timeout, a sneak attack from Havili finished it out, 25-20.
Soucie got it going in set four with a solo block, a block assist and a kill to push the Jayhawks to an 8-4 start. While WVU blocks depleted the Kansas lead, blocks also rebuilt it. Albers and Payne teamed up for a rejection as did Soucie and Rigdon. By the media timeout, KU had five blocks in the frame and a 15-12 lead. With the win in sight, Kansas hit the gas. Albers and Payne threw down a block to bring their team to match point before a service error ended the night, 25-22.
- Head coach Ray Bechard recorded career win No. 1,003 on Wednesday night. His 716 wins at Barton County Community earned him an induction into the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 1998 – his first season at Kansas. Since then, his 287 wins at Kansas are the second-most among active Big 12 coaches.
- West Virginia remains the only school in the conference that Kansas has not lost to. KU is 7-0 all-time against the Mountaineers.
- West Virginia recorded 8.0 blocks in set one, a surreal amount for a Jayhawk opponent. KU has held opponents to 8.0 or fewer blocks 10 times this season. WVU recorded only four more in the next three sets.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton needs three kills to tie Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili surpassed the 800 assist mark in the win (807), putting her fifth all-time on the KU freshman assists record. She passed Trisha Lindgren (789, 1994) to break into the top five.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers also passed the 800-career mark, in kills. She currently sits at 808.
- Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie set a season-high in kills (11), tied a career-high in aces (2) and set a new career-high in digs (6).
Kansas comes home to host the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday, Oct. 18, in the Jayhawks for a Cure match. First serve from the sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center is set for 12 p.m. The match will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
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