Kansas Suffers Rare Sweep at the Hands of No. 3 Texas
AUSTIN, Texas – Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers did all she could with a match-high 16 kills and her eighth double-double of the year, but she and her supporting Kansas cast were outdone in rare fashion by No. 3 Texas Saturday afternoon inside a sold-out Gregory Gym, 25-20, 25-23, 25-18.
Kansas (20-8, 8-6) squared off against a Texas (22-1, 14-1) squad that locked up its fourth-straight Big 12 Conference title last week. While Saturday marked the 18th-consecutive time that the Jayhawks met a top-10 Texas team across the net, it resulted in an infrequent sweep for the Jayhawks. KU’s 3-0 loss was its first in Big 12 play since Oct. 12, 2012 – also to the Longhorns, who went on to win the 2012 NCAA Championship.
“At 23-all we just needed to make a couple plays in the second set to really change the complexion of the match,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We could’ve done a better job out of the lockerroom in the third set, but we dug ourselves a hole. We were out of character for us, but playing a big time opponent can create different issues. Congratulations to them, not only on their Big 12 title but also on playing a good match today.”
Albers was the only player on the floor in double-digits with 16 kills and just three errors against her for a match-high .419 attack efficiency. She added three blocks and 11 digs to her performance, impacting the match in every way. Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie followed her with nine kills and four blocks, while senior Sara McClinton and Austin native Kelsie Payne chalked up five kills each.
In all, KU tallied more kills (39/38) and more digs (49/45) than the home team. Sophomore libero Cassie Wait recorded a match-best 15 digs. Pacing the offense, freshman setter Ainise Havili led the floor with 33 assists. She moved into second all-time for assists by a Jayhawk freshman with 1,188 and now needs just six more to break KU’s rookie record (1,193, Katie Martincich, 2006).
Two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman led Texas with nine kills as UT did not see a player in double-digit kills for just the third time this season. Junior middle blocker Molly McCage followed with seven kills, but was more impressive with her seven blocks.
Albers ripped the first kill of the match on the very first pass, setting up what looked to be an offensively powerful afternoon as the teams went point-for-point through the opening minutes. Even when Texas squeaked out a two-point lead, Kansas immediately erased it – usually off the arm of Albers, who led KU with five kills and no errors in the set.
The Longhorns caught steam with their block after McCage went up for two-straight swats to power a 5-0 run. Ready to turn up on their own side, the Jayhawk middles got it going, as well. Soucie collected five kills in the set, while Payne slashed a kill to the middle of the floor and joined Albers for KU’s first block of the match to bring the Jayhawks within two, 18-16. Texas called a timeout and made sure the visitors would get no closer, putting the first set away, 25-20.
Albers fired off two kills in the first three points to help KU to a 3-0 start in the second set, to which Texas answered loudly with an 8-1 run. Playing behind, KU chipped away with a big block from Soucie and Havili, but it was Albers who brought the biggest pick. She crushed her 10th and 11th kills to bring her team within one and was alongside Soucie for the block that tied the set, 16-16. Two more swings from Soucie and Albers pushed KU back into the lead, 18-17.
The back-and-forth tempo returned. Every time Texas scored, Kansas followed and vice versa. KU won the war to 20 points thanks to a Soucie/McClinton block and kept pace with yet another blast from Albers to tie the score at 23-23. What felt much like a Kansas-controlled set, however, ended in a disappointing 25-23 loss. The match went to break with the Jayhawks trailing two sets to none.
Albers connected on kill number 14 coming out of the break, but Texas captured instant momentum with an 8-3 start that forced Bechard’s hand on a quick timeout. Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery notched three kills in the frame and Payne set up a perfect ball for a back-row kill by McClinton, keeping KU within striking distance. But Texas had all the momentum it needed. Although the Jayhawks cut it to 21-17 in the waning minutes, the Longhorns allowed just one more point en route to the sweep.
- That marked Texas’ 14th sweep of the season, but just the third for Kansas in its last 73 matches – all of which were against top-five opponents (No. 5 Washington 12/13/13, No. 3 Penn State 9/13/14, No. 3 Texas 11/22/14).
- With her five kills against Texas, senior outside hitter Sara McClinton is moving toward sixth place on KU’s all-time career kills list. McClinton now has 1,228 for her career, making her way closer to Amanda Reves’ 1,264 kills (1996-99). McClinton and Haley Eckerman of Texas lead the active Big 12 players in career kills.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers chalked up her eighth double-double of the year with 16 kills and 11 digs against Texas, the 15th DD of her career.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili collected 33 assists against Texas, giving her 1,188 assists for the year to pass former KU setter Andi Rozum (1,179) for second-most assists by a KU freshman. Rozum holds the KU career assists record.
Kansas will return home for the final week of the regular season when the Jayhawks will play host to West Virginia on Wednesday, Nov. 26. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
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