Oklahoma Stops No. 21 Kansas on Its Senior Night, 3-1

NORMAN, Okla. – Redshirt senior Catherine Carmichael led the offense with a team-high 14 kills, but couldn’t offset the 27 combined from Sooner seniors Sallie McLaurin and Keila Rodriguez as Oklahoma took down No. 21 Kansas on its Senior Night, 25-16, 17-25, 25-19, 25-16.      
Snapping a four-match win streak heading into the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, Kansas (23-7, 12-4) found a bright spot as Iowa State’s loss at Kansas State gave the Jayhawks sole possession second place in the Big 12 Conference – the highest finish in program history.
“We certainly didn’t want to back into it,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “It’s hard to want to celebrate when we didn’t come in here and play the way we wanted to. That was an uncharacteristic performance on our part tonight. Also give credit to Oklahoma, who came out here and played really well on Senior Night.”
Carmichael was joined by fellow redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc, who contributed 11 kills and junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers’ 10. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the typically-efficient trio combined for 22 of KU’s 29 attack errors, its third-highest total of the season. After hitting .381 with 19 kills and only three errors in their first-set win, the Jayhawks never hit higher than .167 for the remaining three sets to end the night, hitting .170 compared to Oklahoma’s .341.
A usually-dominant blocking team, Kansas was outdone at the net by a staggering 14.0 to 4.0 margin. McLaurin, the Big 12’s leading blocker and two-time All-American, led the charge with seven blocks. Jarmoc, Carmichael and freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie led the Jayhawks with two apiece.
For the Sooners, McLaurin led the offense with 14 kills, while Rodriguez rattled off a .423 attack percentage. A mere four errors were all that offset the duo’s combined 27 kills. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Madison Ward led the team with a .474 hitting percentage, registering nine kills and no errors.
KU’s second-place finish, albeit hard to celebrate after the loss, wasn’t the only positive for the Jayhawks. Senior setter Erin McNorton recorded a match-high 49 assists and added 10 digs for her sixth double-double of the year. Senior libero Brianne Riley led the floor with 21 digs and became the first Jayhawk – and sixth player in Big 12 history – to reach the 2,000 career dig milestone. As the NCAA Tournament approaches, Riley stands at 2,003 digs in her four years.
Most of the evening’s highlights came in the opening frame, beginning with back-to-back kills for Soucie, which helped Kansas erase an early 6-3 deficit and reverse it for a 7-6 lead. Through the first 10 points, both teams were staying close to the .400 mark and trading points, until a 5-0 Jayhawk run saw the visitors break out to a 14-9 lead. Soucie, junior outside hitter Sara McClinton and Jarmoc fired off three-straight kills to force an Oklahoma timeout with the sizable 21-14 lead.
Thanks to a combined 10 kills and no errors in the opening frame from Carmichael and Soucie, Kansas had complete control. KU finished the set with 19 kills to three errors as the Jayhawks cruised to a 25-16 victory to take the 1-0 lead.
Again KU shook off a quick surge from Oklahoma to start the second set. After the Sooners jumped out to a 5-1 lead, Jarmoc and Carmichael led the offense on a 5-0 run, forcing an OU timeout and returning the lead to Kansas, 6-5. Attack errors and a string of kills from Rodriguez, however, turned the momentum back to the home team. Trailing 14-9, Bechard used a timeout.
This time it was Oklahoma that seized control and maintained it for the duration. The accuracy KU pulled from in the opening set wasn’t there in set two as the Jayhawks committed nine errors compared to its 12 kills for a rough .086 efficiency in the second frame. When McLaurin landed her eighth kill of the match, KU found itself in the in the same predicament it had put OU in – at set point trailing 24-16. McClinton knocked down another kill, but the Jayhawks succumbed to the Sooners 25-17 to tie the match at a set apiece.
For the first time all evening, Kansas scored first to start set three. A service error got it started and a service ace from Jarmoc kept it going. A pair of kills from McClinton and a McNorton ace prompted a timeout from the home bench after the Jayhawks took a commanding 7-1 lead. OU charged back to cut the KU margin to two points, but Albers locked in for two-straight kills to strengthen the Jayhawk lead – or so it seemed.
Once Oklahoma erased the lopsided start, the third set resulted in a much closer contest than the first two. By the midway point, McLaurin and Ward connected on back-to-back kills to knot the score at 15-15. Taking over on her senior day, McLaurin led the Sooners on a 9-3 run to bring the home team to set point. Sophomore outside hitter Kierra Holst added the final kill to close out the set on a 10-4 Oklahoma run. The Sooners took a 2-1 lead after the 25-19 win.
Refocused and facing elimination, Kansas fought back to start the fourth set. Carmichael caught fire once again for three kills in the early goings to power Kansas to a 7-3 start. The Sooners were relentless, putting together a 6-0 in the midst of a KU timeout to push Kansas behind 10-8.
Looking for anyway to halt momentum, Soucie and McNorton stepped up for a crucial block, but couldn’t stop the landslide the Sooners had started. A game-changing 6-0 run forced Kansas to use it last timeout as the Jayhawks found themselves trailing, 19-13.
One last kill from Jarmoc fought off set point once, but the 10th attack error of the set ended the most lopsided OU effort of the night, 25-16.
– Senior libero Brianne Riley’s 21 digs not only pushed her past the 2,000-career mark, but also made her sixth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list, passing 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 11 kills against Oklahoma, redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc now needs just five kills to tie for third all-time on the career kills list at Kansas (1,301), on the heels of former KU standout Sarah Rome (1,306).
– With two blocks against Oklahoma, Jarmoc increased her lead as KU’s all-time block leader (547).
UP NEXT                                                                                                          
Kansas will learn its postseason fate on Sunday, Dec. 1 when the NCAA Selection Show airs on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m. CT.
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