No. 23 Kansas Wins Battle at West Virginia, 3-1
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Redshirt senior Catherine Carmichael churned out nine kills in the first set, but it was her back-to-back kills in KU’s second-set comeback that proved to be the most crucial in No. 23 Kansas’ win at West Virginia inside the WVU Coliseum, 26-28, 26-24, 25-17, 25-22.
Kansas (16-4, 6-1) met a West Virginia (16-5, 2-4) team that head coach Ray Bechard calls one of the best stories in the Big 12, with an impressive turnaround after an 0-16 conference mark a year ago. The victory marked the second-straight season the Jayhawks have started Big 12 play at 6-1. Yet, KU was forced to do so against a squad that came into the evening with an impressive 9-1 mark at home.
The Mountaineers had all the momentum after claiming set one and building a 22-16 lead late in the second set. Staring at a 24-21 deficit, the Jayhawks were in danger of falling behind two sets to none. Carmichael connected on two kills to tie the set, 24-24. With new life, redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc knocked down a kill to take the lead and an attack error tied the match at a set apiece.
“It would’ve been a different match if we went down 0-2,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We fought back. We’re relying on that comeback ability a little too much, but we responded well in the third set and that fourth set was back and forth again. We made enough plays to get out of here with a win against a really, really much improved West Virginia volleyball team.”
Providing a spark when needed for the outside attackers, Carmichael earned the start and showed her worth with an impressive nine kills and .500 attack percentage in the opening frame alone. She went on to end the night one kill shy of her career high as she led the Jayhawks with 18 kills. Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton joined her on the leaderboard with 12 kills.
Senior setter Erin McNorton racked up 50 assists on the night to eclipse 2,500 career assists (2,508) – making her the sixth Jayhawk in history with 2,500 assists. Fellow senior Brianne Riley led the floor with 23 digs, while junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers paced the defense with six blocks and added 10 digs.
As the Jayhawks racked up more hitting errors than points in the opening moments of the first set, West Virginia took advantage, taking two-point leads here and there. KU had answers, however, with Carmichael leading the way. Her four kills in the first early minutes handed KU the 11-9 lead.
West Virginia charged right back when a 3-0 run saw the home team take its largest lead of the set, 16-13, before the Jayhawks rattled off four-straight points of their own. A kill from freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie knotted the score again and a Mountaineer attack error swung the lead back to Kansas. The teams went point-for-point for the remainder of the set, tying the score six times until WVU took the 24-22 lead.
Battling right back, KU fought off set point twice using back-to-back kills from junior outside hitter Sara McClinton and Soucie. The Jayhawks faced set points twice more, but an attack error and a kill from Caleah Wells was enough for a first-set Mountaineer win, 28-26.
West Virginia came out playing fast and swinging even harder in set two. While the Jayhawks came out hitting .556 through the first 10 points, KU’s hot streak was brief. While a slide of hand kill from McNorton stopped the second 4-0 WVU run of the set, but KU still found itself trailing, 17-14, with all the momentum pointed in the direction of the home team. After falling behind 20-15, Bechard used his final timeout of the frame. The Jayhawks’ attack percentage dwindled to .000 and West Virginia raced to set point, 24-21.
Not ready to give, Kansas kicked back into gear. Carmichael came up with her biggest kills of the night cutting the KU deficit to one, 24-23, and her next tied the set, 24-24. Jarmoc took over for the next point, slamming a kill to give the Jayhawks their first lead since the 11-10 mark early in the set. Finishing the comeback that required five-straight points, she joined McNorton for the block that sealed the set and tied the match, 26-24.
The second-set rally provided confidence surge the Jayhawks were scrambling for, and it showed in the third set. A solo block from WVU middle blocker Evyn McCoy tried to cut into the quick lead Kansas built to start the set, 12-8, but the Jayhawks were rolling. A 7-0 Kansas run put the visitors in complete control with a 19-8 advantage. West Virginia strung together a 3-0 run late in the set, but the Jayhawks wouldn’t loosen their grip. Albers’ fourth kill of the set followed by an Albers/Soucie block wrapped up the frame, 25-17.
Charging right back, West Virginia darted out to a 4-0 to start set number four, but was directly met by four-straight points from the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers never steered away from playing hard, propelling themselves out to a 12-9 lead before KU again came back to tie it thanks to an Albers kill.
With all but one of the evening’s sets going down to the wire, the Jayhawks and Mountaineers locked the score at 12, 13, 14 and 15 before KU took the next two to force a WVU timeout leading 17-15. The quick pause proved useful, sparking a 4-0 run for the home team to reclaim the lead 19-17.
Checking in for her first action of the night in the fourth set, sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery came up huge, knocking down three kills after the 20-point mark to take a 23-22 lead. An ace from Jarmoc and one final kill from Soucie closed the door on the Kansas win, 25-23.
– Senior libero Brianne Riley’s 23 digs moved her closer to sixth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (1,858), chasing former Missouri standout Tatum Ailes (1,997; 2004-07).
– Riley now has double-digit digs in 46-consecutive matches.
– Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc’s 1,193 kills rank sixth all-time for career kills at Kansas. That number is second-most among current Big 12 players. She trails fellow senior Kaitlynn Pelger from Kansas State (1,376).
– Jarmoc’s five total blocks pulled her closer to becoming KU’s all-time blocks leader. Sitting at 510 career blocks, Jarmoc needs just five more to become the new Kansas leader (currently Amanda Reves with 514; 1996-99).
No. 23 Kansas comes home to host the Iowa State Cyclones on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
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