Sharp-Shooting Jayhawks Sweep TCU
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie put on a spectacular offensive effort for the Jayhawks, which included a new career-high in kills (16), tied a career-high in aces (2) and led all players in attack percentage (.652). Her efficiency led the Jayhawks in straight sets over TCU Saturday afternoon in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, 25-17, 25-19, 25-19.
Kansas (15-5, 3-3) looked strong offensively thanks to a .581 hitting percentage to open the match, its highest mark in a single set all year. By the end of the afternoon, KU’s attackers swung for 58 kills and only nine errors for a season-high .408 hitting percentage. Although TCU (12-9, 2-5) matched KU’s first-set efficiency with its .300 percentage, Soucie and the Jayhawks set the tone and never lost control.
“Soucie had her best match of the year by far,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “With 16 kills and one error for a middle, that’s what we’ve been working toward. Obviously, she played with a different setter last year and her connection with Ainise (Havili) continues to grow. We hope we can continue that. When you hit over .400 everyone plays well, I thought it was a pretty complete effort. If you can get that balance going, it’s going to make you very tough to defend. That’s the highest percentage of balls that we’ve been able to get to our middles, which is a credit to Ainise and her distribution.”
Just nine days ago, Kansas was last in the Big 12 Conference standings after an 0-3 start to league play. Resisting any oncoming pressure, the Jayhawks responded with three-straight wins to boost them into sole possession of fourth place.
“We had a good week and can get right back into the top-half of the league standings,” Bechard said. “At 3-3 in the league and 15-5 overall, we’ve done that, but we’ve got a huge week coming up at Iowa State and with Texas Tech at home. If we could finish on a positive note after the first half of Big 12 play, I think that sets us up with really good momentum.”
Soucie led the big day for the KU middles as freshman Kelsie Payne racked up 10 kills of her own. Together the duo chalked up 26 kills and committed just one error. Both rejected three blocks apiece as did freshman setter Ainise Havili. Havili picked up her 10th double-double on the year with 45 assists and 11 digs and connected on two aces, the sixth time this year she’s landed multiple aces. Sophomore libero Cassie Wait racked up 20 digs for the fourth-consecutive match and achieved a season-high two aces.
When senior outside hitter Sara McClinton cranked out her third kill in the opening set, she joined elite company. The Omaha native passed former KU standout Jana Correa for entry onto KU’s top-10 all-time career kills list, finishing the match with 12 kills.
TCU was led by sophomore outside hitter Ashley Smith’s 10 kills, the only Horned Frog in double-digits. As a unit, TCU made very few mistakes as the team tallied 38 kills compared to only eight errors for a .270 attack percentage.
In the early portion of the match, Kansas registered six points on its first six swings. An ace from Soucie capped off a 3-0 run, giving the Jayhawks the early advantage, 6-3. Moments later, McClinton notched her third kill of the set, giving KU an 8-5 advantage and inserting herself onto KU’s coveted top-10 list. A 5-0 TCU run put the Horned Frogs ahead for the first time of the match, 10-8, but the Jayhawks battled back to take a 15-14 lead into the media timeout. Out of the break, Kansas completely took over with eight-straight points to take a commanding 22-14 lead. From there, Payne blasted her fourth kill of the set and junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery closed the door with back-to-back kills, lifting Kansas 25-17.
Just like in the first frame, Kansas started red hot. Three kills from Soucie ignited the early KU attack, taking a 5-1 lead. The Horned Frogs responded by scoring five of the next six points to claim an 8-6 lead. Trailing 14-12, kills from Dockery and McClinton sparked six-straight KU points. Two plays later, kills from Soucie and McClinton sparked another Jayhawk run, this time 4-0, putting KU comfortably ahead 22-16. A series of TCU errors gave Kansas the set, 25-19, and a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.
Out of the intermission, Soucie dominated the offensive attack by netting three kills and an ace, pushing KU ahead 7-3. A pair of TCU points reduced the lead to two, but back-to-back aces from Wait highlighted a 4-0 Jayhawk run, propelling them back up 13-7. The Horned Frogs wouldn’t go down without a fight as three-straight points cut the Jayhawk lead down to three, 13-10.
Relentless, Soucie remained in charge of the offense by slamming down what was her 14th kill (a career high) and pushing the lead to five, 18-13. Several plays later, freshman Madison Rigdon entered the match and stepped up in a huge way, knocking down three of the squad’s final five kills. Kansas cruised in straight sets after a 25-19 win.
- Head coach Ray Bechard recorded career win No. 1,004 on Saturday afternoon. 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 288 wins at Kansas are the second-most among active Big 12 coaches.
- With 12 kills against TCU, senior outside hitter Sara McClinton passed Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list. McClinton now has 1,140 for her career, making her one of two (Haley Eckerman, Texas) players in the Big 12 with 1,000 career kills.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili chalked up her 10th double-double of the year with 45 assists and 11 digs. Four of KU’s six Big 12 matches have resulted in double-doubles for Havili, the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers tallied 13 digs against TCU, putting her at 749 for her career. Only 11 players in KU volleyball history have surpassed 800 kills/750 digs.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait’s 20 digs vs. TCU was her ninth 20-plus effort of the year and fourth in a row.
- Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie set her new career high with 16 kills, surpassing her previous mark of 13 vs. Texas Tech last season (11/23/13).
Kansas returns to the road for a meeting in Ames, Iowa. The Jayhawks and Cyclones will square off in Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday, Oct. 22. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
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