Kansas Fights to Five But Loses at Iowa State
AMES, Iowa – Rallies lengthened as every point became increasingly crucial. Chelsea Albers, Cassie Wait and Maggie Anderson all hit the floor to keep the ball alive in that decisive moment in the fifth set. Tied at 8-8, the longest rally of the night ended in favor of the Cyclones – a back-breaking point for the Jayhawks. Kansas went on to lose in five sets at Iowa State inside Hilton Coliseum Wednesday night, 25-18, 16-25, 17-25, 25-21, 15-12.
After knocking off the Iowa State (11-7, 3-4) in Ames a year ago, the Jayhawks (15-6, 3-4) were on the hunt for back-to-back victories inside Hilton Coliseum for the first time since the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Entering the evening, Iowa State had lost only twice at home and to elite company: then-No. 3 Stanford and then-No. 13 Florida State. Losing at home for the first time since August was not what the Cyclones had in mind.
“They’ve had success at home, but there was opportunity there for us,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “I guess to a neutral observer, it was a pretty competitive match. We’ve got to figure out some things as far as who we are when it comes to our competitive personality. This is not going to define who we are, but certainly it should determine how we prepare for our next match.”
In a night that saw Kansas go ahead by a set, fall behind by a set and finally tie it up at two sets apiece, there were plenty of big performances. Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne led the Jayhawks with a career-high 13 kills and a match-high .357 attack percentage. She and sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie held down the net with six blocks apiece as KU out-blocked the home team, 13.0-10.0.
Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery chalked up her second double-double of the year with 12 kills and 10 digs. Fellow veteran, senior Chelsea Albers, put up season-high numbers in digs (21), assists (4) and blocks (5) in addition to her eight blocks. Spreading the offense around in an environment that proved constantly challenging, freshman setter Ainise Havili dished out 45 assists to combine with 11 digs for the 11th double-double of her young career. Behind them, sophomore libero Cassie Wait posted her fifth-straight 20-dig performance with an even 20 saves on the night.
“We played one of our better first sets,” Bechard said. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t respond better in sets two and three, but then we got back in it in the fourth. Fifth sets on the road are difficult. They made more plays than we did.”
On the other side of the net, four different Cyclones registered double-digit kills, led by sophomore outside hitter Ciara Capezio’s 16. Mississippi State transfer, sophomore setter Suzanne Horner, tallied 50 assists, while junior libero Caitlin Nolan tied the Big 12 record for digs in a match with 43 – a mark previously set by KU’s Brianne Riley.
For the first time in Big 12 play for the Jayhawks, both teams hit below .200 with KU (.170) barely out-doing ISU (.169).
Prior to first serve, Iowa State honored head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch for her 200th win at ISU. After KU took a quick 9-5 lead in the early minutes, she signaled for her first timeout of the night. Payne and Soucie got rolling out of the gate, cranking out four kills in KU’s first nine points. The Jayhawks extended their lead to five before ISU cut the deficit to a single point, 12-11. Kansas wasted no time in its response. Back-to-back blocks, both of which Soucie was a part, fueled four-straight KU points. She finished the opening frame with a team-best four kills on six swings to power the Jayhawks to a 25-18 win.
Unaccustomed to losing on their home floor, the Cyclones fired out to a 5-0 lead to start the second set to force KU’s hand for a timeout. Although Dockery and Soucie kicked into gear to cut into the lead, ISU picked up speed with another five-point run to find itself in front 12-5. On the other side of the net, KU faced attack errors that weren’t present in the opening frame. Three-consecutive miscues broke the set open in favor of the Cyclones, 17-8. The 3-0 blocking advantage that KU enjoyed in set one was flipped in the second frame, which the Cyclones used to claim set two, 25-16.
Set three opened with an eerily same feel as KU fell behind to an early 5-0 deficit. Led by the play from Nolan, ISU refused to let KU’s attacks hit the floor. Trailing 10-2, Bechard had no choice. He burned his second timeout in attempt to rally his squad. Soucie and Payne stopped the Iowa State tear with a pair of kills, but a service error returned the ball to ISU. By the midway mark, the Jayhawks were staring up at a 15-5 deficit. Albers provided the first round of sparks with a kill and a solo block. Moments later she landed a service ace before Dockery swung hard for back-to-back kills, chipping the ISU lead to 18-12. McClinton and Payne tried to keep it going with their kills, but the Cyclones ran away with their second-straight set, 25-17.
Just like that, KU went from a 1-0 lead on the road to an all-out battle just to extend the match. The Jayhawks played like it to start set four, this time taking a 4-1 lead, its first advantage since the set number one. Taking hard cracks at the ball, Dockery and Soucie strung a trio of kills together to stay in front, 8-6. As expected, Iowa State came right back to tie it. Making an adjustment in his lineup, Bechard subbed in freshman Madison Rigdon, who promptly picked up the kill. When Albers and Payne rejected two-straight Cyclone attacks, the Jayhawks pulled in front, 13-10.
Again Iowa State tied it, and again, Kansas had to find a way to keep the match alive. Soucie and Rigdon rose to the occasion as every swing was now a big one. The duo went one after the other to win the battle to 20 points – and sprinted right past it. A 4-0 run saw Kansas take a commanding 23-18 lead. Rigdon maintained her spark plug role, crushing her fourth kill of the frame to bring KU to set point. She joined Payne for the block that sent it to the fifth set, 25-21.
A 7-3 deficit looked insurmountable to start the fifth set, but the Jayhawks didn’t care. Out of a timeout, Kansas came up with three-straight points off the blocks of Soucie and Havili. Two points later, the Jayhawks had tied the score at 8-8. The ensuing serve, however, saw both teams diving around in desperation to win the point. Unfortunately, the Cyclones came away with it. KU never stopped fighting, but the Jayhawks ran out of room. Iowa State claimed the final point at 15-12.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili chalked up her 11th double-double of the year with 45 assists and 11 digs. Five of KU’s seven Big 12 matches have resulted in double-doubles for Havili, the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers tallied a season-high 21 digs against Iowa State, putting her at 770 for her career. She is now the 12th player in KU volleyball history have surpassed 800 kills/750 digs.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait’s 20 digs at Iowa State was her 10th 20-plus effort of the year and fifth in a row.
Kansas will welcome former players back to Lawrence for its alumni weekend when the Jayhawks will take on Texas Tech, Saturday at 1 p.m. inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The match will air on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
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