No. 9 Kansas Powers Past West Virginia, 3-0

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No. 9 Kansas volleyball earned its 17th sweep of the season with a three-set victory at West Virginia on Saturday in WVU Coliseum (3-0; 25-20, 25-16, 25-17).

Although it wasn’t as dominant of an offensive performance as KU’s first match against West Virginia on Oct. 3 – when the Jayhawks set an NCAA season high for hitting percentage in a three-set match (.597) – the Jayhawks recorded nine blocks to keep the Mountaineers at bay with a .053 hitting percentage on Saturday.

“You have to give West Virginia credit – they out-dug us (47-41),” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “Here’s a team that, even though their season hasn’t gone the way they hoped, has gotten much better throughout the season. They are much, much better than the team we saw in Lawrence. That said, we weren’t as terminal as we would like to be. We blocked well and served pretty well. We will never take a road win in the Big 12 for granted.”

Junior middle blocker Tayler Soucie led the defensive wall with seven blocks, rising her career blocks total to 396. Sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon paced a balanced stable of five Jayhawks who recorded five or more kills. Rigdon posted nine kills on a .292 hitting percentage, adding three blocks.

Kansas started the first set by taking a 9-5 lead without recording an attacking error on its first 13 swings. But West Virginia was able to claw back to tie the match 11 times and swap leads with KU four times before the completion of the opening set. Fresh out of a KU timeout with the score tied, 19-19, the Jayhawks finished the set on a 6-1 run that included two Rigdon kills and two Soucie blocks to close out the first set victory, 25-20.

“It was a little sluggish through the first set, but we were able to end the first set pretty well, and that carried on to the second and third sets,” Bechard said.

The Jayhawks’ aggressive service game was on display from the start of the second set, when sophomore setter Ainise Havili recorded two aces during an early run that gave KU a 4-0 lead. West Virginia recorded 10 attacking errors in the second set, as KU broke open its lead with an 11-2 run before winning the set, 25-16.

The Mountaineers aided KU’s 25-17 third-set win with another 10 attacking errors, three of which came from KU blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Kayle Cheadle recorded her first kill of Big 12 play this season, finishing with one kill and one block in the third set.

With two regular-season matches now remaining, Kansas improves to 24-2 and 12-2 in Big 12 Conference play. West Virginia falls to 5-21 and 0-13 in league play.

Part two of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown between Kansas and Kansas State is Wednesday in Manhattan. The Jayhawks won the first meeting with K-State in four during the Big 12 opener on Sept. 23 in Lawrence. The regular season finale and Senior Day will be in Lawrence on Saturday against Texas Tech.

“It’s going to be a great week coming up,” Bechard concluded. “We get to play a team that’s really hot in K-State and end our regular-season with what will be an emotional Senior Day against Texas Tech.”