No. 21 Kansas Finishes Strong to Down Denver, 3-1
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc was steady for the Jayhawks all evening, but when Kansas needed an ignition, she was instrumental in the 21st-ranked Jayhawks’ victory over the University of Denver, 25-23, 26-28, 25-16, 25-16 Tuesday evening inside Kansas volleyball’s original home – Allen Fieldhouse.
Jarmoc’s 15 kills and .462 attack percentage led the floor and her five blocks and one service ace were crucial for Kansas (23-6, 12-3) to defeat a scrappy Denver team (17-13, 10-4) in front of 3,926 proud volleyball fans on KU’s fan appreciation night.
“We had almost 4,000 people in here tonight. That’s a great turnout, so thank you Jayhawk Nation for that,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “After the break, (tied 1-1), we went 29 kills to five errors and we sided-out at 68 percent and 82 percent, so we’ll look at the good and the bad. We were a little disappointed with the start, but give some credit to Denver and their seniors playing their last match with nothing to lose.”
Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie continued to play well in big moments with 12 kills and two blocks, while hitting .308 for the match. Junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers was right behind her with 11 kills of her own and a match-high six blocks. Redshirt senior Catherine Carmichael’s nine kills were instrumental in the Jayhawk’s third-set rally, while senior setter Erin McNorton passed out a match-high 50 assists. The Denver offense struck lasers from the offensive side of the net, but senior libero Brianne Riley managed to dig 20 Pioneer kill attempts.
For much of the first-half of the match, Kansas seemed to be in a funk. The Jayhawks only managed to hit .128 in the first set and .100 in the second, while Denver bested them in nearly every category on the stat sheet. It wasn’t until the third and fourth set that the Jayhawks played like the No. 21 team in the country and hit .355 and .406, respectively, while the defense held Denver to hit .097 and .206 in the final two frames.
Denver saw three players record double-digits in the kill column, led by senior middle blocker Brea Muhle who had 14. Behind her was freshman outside hitter Moni Corrujedo with 13 kills and 10 digs, while sophomore middle blocker Sarah Schmid had 10 kills. Sophomore setter Tori Moons led the Pioneer offense with 48 assists, while on the defensive side of the net three Pioneers, Schmid, Muhle, and redshirt junior outside hitter Cassie Ronda, tied for the team-lead with three blocks.
The Allen Fieldhouse stage didn’t seem to be too overwhelming for the Summit League runner-up Denver Pioneers as they tested the Jayhawks throughout the match.
Each time Kansas would build up a lead in the first set, Denver was right on the Jayhawks’ heels. There were 14 ties and five lead changes in the first set, while the Pioneer defense held Kansas to only hit .128. Things seemed to turn Kansas’ way just before the media timeout, with the score being tied, 14-14, a long rally ensued that saw both teams make extraordinary saves to keep the ball alive.
McNorton was finally able to find Soucie for a momentum-building kill entering the media timeout. Soucie followed up what was her first kill of the night by putting down two more kills to give Kansas a two point advantage, 18-16. The Jayhawks extended their two-point lead to three late in the set, 22-19, only to see the Pioneers get a kill, then score points on consecutive Kansas errors to tie the score, 22-22. Bechard had no choice but to take a timeout to try and regroup. Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton threw down a kill out of the timeout and a Pioneer error followed to give Kansas set point 24-22, leading to a Denver timeout. Kansas surrendered the following point to Denver, but on the next serve a Pioneer error gave Kansas the win in the first set, 25-23.
Denver once again came out of the gate strong in the second set building an early 3-1 advantage and weathering two separate 3-0 Jayhawk runs, which ignited the Fieldhouse crowd. With the Jayhawk lead at one, 8-7, Albers had accounted for five of the eight total points. Jarmoc followed Albers’ lead by registering back-to-back kills to give Kansas its third 3-0 run of the set, while also extending the team’s lead, 10-7, forcing a Pioneer timeout. Denver would battle back into the set like they had throughout the match and with KU leading by one, 15-14, the fourth 3-0 Kansas run sparked from a kill by sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery, then an Albers kill, concluded by a Pioneer error prompted Denver head coach Jesse Mahoney to take a timeout trailing 18-14. The next three Jayhawk points came from Pioneer errors, until Wait’s career-high second ace of the match gave Kansas a four point lead 22-18 late in the set.
Denver quickly cut a four-point KU advantage to one, 24-23. Not wanting the second set to slip away, Bechard had to once again take a late-set timeout. Twenty-five points weren’t enough for the teams as consecutive errors plagued back-to-back points for both squads and the set ended up going to extra points. The Jayhawks weren’t able to find success and put Denver away, after having multiple chances to win the set. The Pioneer defense out blocked Kansas, 4-2 and held the usually crisp Jayhawk offense to a .100 attack percentage while KU also had an uncharacteristic 11 errors in the set. One of those 11 errors came on the final point of the set as an attack went long and Denver won the, 28-26, while tying the match 1-1.
It looked as though nothing was going to slow down the Denver Pioneers, outplayed Kansas early in the third set to lead 12-9, forcing yet another Jayhawk timeout. KU needed a spark to capture momentum and veterans Carmichael, Riley, Albers and Jarmoc answered the call. The four battle-tested upperclassmen scored six-straight points for Kansas, combining for a total of six kills, four blocks, and one ace in the midst of a 15-4 run to claim a 24-13 lead. The veterans handed the final point off to Soucie, who ended the excitement with her seventh kill of the match and concluding the Jayhawk run, 16-4, to give Kansas a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Pioneers were too poised to be rattled after Kansas dominated the latter stages of the third set and ended up fighting back-and-forth with KU in the all-important fourth set. Kansas built up a five-point lead, 10-5 early, on an array of scoring. Denver was able to claw its way back like it had done previously and the once comfortable five point lead was trimmed down to two, 12-10. Kansas would once again build the lead out to four points, 14-10, but Denver answered again with consecutive scores of its own to trail 14-12. A Pioneer service error gave the Jayhawks a three point cushion, 15-12 entering the media timeout. Two Denver errors and a service ace from redshirt freshman setter Maggie Anderson were enough to extend the Jayhawk lead to six, 18-12 going into a Pioneer timeout late in the set. With the Jayhawk lead now at five once again, 20-15, Dockery struck a kill, then Albers and Soucie teamed up for a block, forcing Denver into a timeout to try and save its chances in the match trailing, 22-15. Soucie would end up orchestrating a 5-1 run, contributing to three of the last four Kansas points, including the final kill to give the Jayhawks a 25-16 win in the set, and 3-1 victory in the match.
– Senior libero Brianne Riley’s 20 digs moved her closer to sixth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (1,982), now only 15 digs of former Missouri standout Tatum Ailes (1,997; 2004-07).
– Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie’s two blocks continued to up her status as the Kansas freshman record for the most blocks in a single season. Soucie now has 121 total blocks.
– With 15 kills against Denver, redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc moved into fourth all-time for career kills at Kansas (1,294), passing former KU standout Allison Mayfield (1,282).
– With five blocks against Denver, Jarmoc increased her lead as KU’s all-time block leader (545).
Kansas will hit the road for the last time in the regular season when the Jayhawks travel to Norman, Okla., for a Nov. 30 meeting with the Oklahoma Sooners. The match is slated for 7 p.m. KU will then learn its postseason fate on Sunday, Nov. 1 when the NCAA Selection Show airs on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m. CT
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