No. 23 Kansas Collects Second-Straight Sunflower Series Sweep
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Redshirt senior outside hitter, and Manhattan native, Catherine Carmichael tied a team-high 14 kills with a dominant .414 hitting percentage to help 23rd-ranked Kansas take down Kansas State, 3-1; 19-25, 26-24, 25-14, 25-18 Saturday evening inside a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
Carmichael came up big in the later stages of the fourth and final set with four crucial kills and a block to give Kansas (20-6, 10-3) its fourth-straight victory over Kansas State (16-9, 4-8), a feat that KU hasn’t witnessed in more than 20 years. Kansas’ 20th win is also the first time in the Ray Bechard era that a team has achieved back-to-back 20-win seasons with the last time occurring in 1982 and 1983 (1977 and 1978 with both being winning records).
Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie’s nine kills and nine blocks were indicative of how the final box score looked for Kansas as the Jayhawks nearly had five players with double digits in the kill column. Along with Carmichael’s 14, junior outside hitter Sara McClinton had 14 of her own, while redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc had 12. Junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers joined Soucie with nine kills, leaving her one kill short of a double-double as she tallied 11 digs.
A team .315 attack percentage was the result of senior setter Erin McNorton’s 47 assists, which she matched with a team-high 13 digs for her fifth double-double of the year. Kansas also out-blocked Kansas State 13-6.5 in the match as four Jayhawks recorded four or more blocks.
“That could’ve been (our best balanced match of the season),” Bechard said. “After (Tayler) Soucie’s slow start, she picked it up. But Cathy (Carmichael) was great, Sara (McClinton) was great, (Chelsea) Albers was solid, (Caroline) Jarmoc was great. Even Erin (McNorton) threw it over there a couple of times when she needed to. That balance was a direct reflection of Erin McNorton. It was a team effort tonight and that’s what’s this is – it’s a good team.”
The Wildcats were led on the night by senior outside hitter Courtney Traxson’s match-high 19 kills on a .325 hitting percentage. The always-reliable senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger had 16 kills of her own, seven of which came in the first set, but the Jayhawk defense held the Wildcat offense in check, only allowing a .234 hitting percentage. Redshirt freshman Katie Brand’s 51 assists led both teams.
The Kansas defense was out of sync to start the match, but Kansas State wasn’t able to capitalize and take control of the set due to errors. The Jayhawks didn’t record their first points from the offensive side of the net until Jarmoc’s kill tied the set, 4-4. Both teams then calmed down and the set became a back-and-forth affair. McClinton provided Kansas with a much-needed spark in the rotation after registering kills on consecutive points, first with a kill, she then teamed up with Soucie to block a Wildcat attack and also give the Jayhawks their first lead of the match 6-5. The point trading trend resumed until midway through the set when the Wildcats led 15-12 during a media timeout.
When play resumed, KU battled back within one on kills from Jarmoc and McClinton to only trail 15-14, but a 3-0 run due to two attack errors from Kansas and a kill from Kansas State senior outside hitter Dakota Kaufman helped extend the Wildcat lead to as many as five points, 20-15. When it looked like the Wildcats were going to run away with the first set, Kansas ended up making it interesting with a 3-0 run on a kill from McNorton, then a block from Jarmoc and Albers finished off by a kill from Carmichael to force Kansas State into a timeout clinging to a 23-19 lead. The Wildcats were able to make adjustments in the timeout and quickly ended the first set on Pelger’s seventh kill, followed by another from Brand to end it in KSU’s favor, 25-19.
The second set began in a familiar way with Kansas not being able to put things together on the offensive side of the net and only scoring on two Wildcat service errors. Also like the previous set, Jarmoc ended the drought, this time with a block, giving the Jayhawks an early 3-2 advantage. That lead wouldn’t hold for very long as the evenly matched teams battled through each tightly contested point. When Kansas would score two-straight, the Wildcats would answer with two of their own. Before the set’s end, the teams saw a total of 22 ties and seven lead changes. When Kansas would score it would do so by the committee of McClinton, Carmichael, Jarmoc, and Soucie which helped the team narrow its deficit, 15-14, going into the media timeout. With his team trailing 21-20 and fearing falling behind two sets to none, Bechard used a timeout in an attempt to regroup.
As she had throughout the match, McClinton answered the call and notched two kills to tie the set 22-22. After a Kansas State point, it was Carmichael and Jarmoc who registered back-to-back kills to give Kansas a 24-23 advantage going into a Wildcat timeout. Twenty-five points weren’t enough for the teams in the second set as Kansas State tied the score at 24, but right on call, Carmichael and Jarmoc again put down consecutive kills giving the Jayhawks a 26-24 win in the set while tying the match 1-1.
“Set two was important, obviously, and let’s give K-State credit, they played at a really high level,” Bechard said. “I think we were ready for them to take a little break from their execution or something, but we needed to raise our level of play. We did it just in time in the second set. Then the third and fourth sets, we played… we hit .533 and sided-out at 85 percent. Then, we contained No. 17 (Kaitlynn Pelger). She had more errors than kills in the third and fourths sets – that was huge. I’m so proud of kids like Cathy Carmichael, who no one really gave a chance, and she was out there playing at the highest level. She looked like the best player on the floor at times.”
Early in the third set, Albers had diving digs which resulted in two-straight points, both of which not only saved the Jayhawks from surrendering points, but each dig turned into a kill for Kansas, one from Jarmoc and the other from Carmichael. For the first time in the match it looked like a team was going to build enough of a lead to end the back-and-forth affair that had been the theme of the first two sets. Kansas did just that, after a 3-1 run on kills from Jarmoc, McClinton and Soucie, Kansas State called a timeout looking to regroup, trailing 7-4. The stoppage did nothing to the Jayhawk rhythm as that only caused another run that would see the lead extended to 14-9 after another Wildcat timeout. Kansas made nearly every difficult play in the third set, including freshman defensive specialist Cassie Wait diving into the Kansas bench to keep a point alive. She was successful in keeping the ball in play, knocking over a few chairs in the process, she knocked the ball back in to McNorton who dished it to Soucie. The rookie middle blocker ended the rally with a crowd-roaring kill in the midst of a 4-0 run that put the Jayhawks ahead, 19-11. From that point it was clear the third set belonged to Kansas as they went on to emphatically claim a 2-1 match-advantage after winning the third set 25-14.
The beginning of the fourth set resembled the first two as neither team established a large lead and both fought back-and-forth to try to score points. Once again, McClinton came through and sparked her team when it needed to string together a few points. First tied at 13, McClinton slammed a kill, then the next point her and Soucie teamed up for a block to lead 15-14 going into the media timeout. After trading a few points, it was Soucie who took control with a kill-block sequence to give the Jayhawks an 18-15 lead late in the set.
Kansas reeled off a 3-0 run on a kill from Albers and two from Carmichael before Kansas State was forced into a timeout, seeing its chances slipping away. After a Wildcat point, the Jayhawks went on another 3-0 run on an error, a Carmichael kill and a block from the tandem of Albers and Soucie. Kansas State was able to salvage one last point in the match, but that was all the Jayhawk defense would allow as Jarmoc finished off the match with her 12th kill, 25-18, 3-1.
- Senior libero Brianne Riley saw her double-digit dig streak come to an end on Saturday. With seven digs against Kansas State, Riley’s streak of consecutive matches with double-digit digs ended at 51.
- Riley’s seven digs moved her closer to sixth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (1,939), now only 58 digs of former Missouri standout Tatum Ailes (1,997; 2004-07).
- Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie became just the third true freshman in KU history to collect 100 kills and 100 blocks in her debut season (174 kills/108 blocks). She joined former volleyball players Emily Brown (231 kills/113 blocks in 2004) and Josi Lima (327 kills/103 blocks).
- Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc’s 1,261 kills rank sixth all-time for career kills at Kansas.
- With four blocks against Kansas State, Jarmoc increased her lead as KU’s all-time block leader (531).
Kansas continues its tough stretch of schedule, this time on the road at Iowa State on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Battling for the Big 12’s second-place spot, the Jayhawks and Cyclones are set to square off at 6:30 p.m. inside Hilton Coliseum.
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