No. 9 Kansas Defeats Furman, Advances to NCAA Second Round
LAWRENCE, Kan. – No. 9 Kansas served up 11 aces to help defeat Furman, 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-17), in the NCAA Volleyball Championship First Round on Thursday night. Despite hosting the first and second rounds for the fourth consecutive season, Thursday marked the first NCAA postseason match inside KU’s true home court – a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
“That was a lot of fun,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “We have played at Horejsi a number of times but it feels a bit different when it’s a NCAA tournament-type setting. I thought we got a little sped up at times with our serve and offense but once settled in serving the ball tough and in, everything else started to come together.”
The Jayhawks (27-2) reached an NCAA tournament program record for hitting percentage in a match (.364) with 44 kills and just eight attacking errors. Sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon posted a career-high four aces and sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne contributed 13 kills on a .423 hitting percentage to give KU its 19th three-set sweep of the season.
Furman ends its season with a 21-9 record after making its second NCAA postseason appearance as Southern Conference champions. Annie Bierman paced the Paladins with nine kills and 11 digs.
Kansas came out in the first set anxious to erase memories of a first-round upset to Little Rock last season in Topeka. The Jayhawks did just that – jumping out to leads of 8-4 and 21-11 before winning the first set, 25-14. Payne emphatically closed out the set with three consecutive kills.
Payne kept rolling into the second set with eight kills on 11 errorless swings. In fact, the entire Kansas squad did not record an attacking error in a 25-21 second set victory. Furman kept pace with the Jayhawks’ offensive production, matching KU’s 16 second-set kills and playing to a 20-18 advantage late in the period.
Sophomore Tori Miller entered the match as a serving specialist with the second set tied, 20-20, and aggressively served a three-point run which swung the momentum back the Jayhawks. The run also set up another dominating finish from Payne, who recorded the last four points for KU during a 7-1 run to end the second set.
Kansas closed the match with six aces on just two service errors to fuel a 25-17 victory. Senior Tiana Dockery zipped three aces and Rigdon two past Furman’s defense in the closing set.
Kansas advances to the second round of the NCAA Championship for the fifth time in seven postseason appearances, and will face No. 25 Missouri on Friday night (6:30 p.m., ESPN3). The Tigers defeated Missouri State on Thursday, 3-1, to advance.
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• KANSAS IN THE NCAAs: In its seven seventh overall appearance in the NCAA Championship, Kansas improves to 6-6, including a 5-2 record in the first round.
• NCAA RECORDS: KU’s .364 hitting percentage and 11 aces are team records during NCAA tournament play.
• KANSAS-FURMAN SERIES: Kansas now leads the all-time series against Furman, 2-0. The previous meeting was a 3-0 Kansas victory on Sept. 9, 2000 in Lawrence.
• ACCURATE MIDDLES: Kansas middle blockers Tayer Soucie (7-0-11) and Janae Hall (7-0-9) combined for 14 kills without recording an attacking error.
Senior OH Tiana Dockery
• Notched her 100th win as a Jayhawk and now holds a 100-26 record in four seasons at KU.
• Recorded all of her three aces on the night in the third set.
• Officially became the first Jayhawk to compete in an NCAA postseason match during all four years of her collegiate career.
Sophomore RS Kelsie Payne
• Recorded a match-high 13 kills on a .425 hitting percentage.
Sophomore OH Madison Rigdon
• Recorded a career-high four aces.
Kansas head coach Ray Bechard:
“That was a lot of fun. We have played at Horejsi a number of times but I think they will tell you that it feels a bit different when it’s a NCAA tournament type stetting. I thought we got a little sped up at times with our serve and offense. But once settled in serving the ball tough and in, everything else started to come together. We had 10 errors but 11 aces’, so if you can go 1 to 1 in that category, that’s excellent. Then I thought offensively, we got better and got into the flow of the game. I would like to credit Furman and Coach Michelle (Young) on a great year that they have had, very quality opponent. I’m excited that we are moving on, obviously we have a lot of work to do tomorrow night but we will be ready to do that.”
On if the team is carrying any extra momentum:
“No, I think the momentum they have carried is the experience they have had throughout 29 matches in this season. They have played all types of different opponents and with the exception of one team, we have figured out a way. So I think there is great value that they have played well over a long period of time and that momentum, you’ve got to start it each and every night but there’s a certain level of momentum. Granted, we are going to have to do some things well tomorrow night but there is a lot of moments that we can recall that we have done that this year.
Senior DS Anna Church
On the kill that she had:
“I was trying to get it over the net and in the court, so I was pretty excited when it dropped and got a kill. But yeah, I was trying to save the ball and make sure we can play the next point.”
On playing Missouri and how much it means:
“It means a lot, growing up in Kansas, especially the people that have grown up here, we already have that rivalry in our bones so we are pretty pumped to play Mizzou tomorrow.”
Senior OH Tiana Dockery
On career win number 100:
“It was awesome, I actually didn’t know and completely forgot about it. I guess you could say I was pretty focused but I think it’s great for it to happen in Horejsi. I mean it’s great to play in Allen (Field House) but Horejsi is that family environment. So with the help of my teammates, none of it would be possible.”
On overall performance of the team during the match and if they were on top of their game:
At times, I thought we were on top of our game. I feel like we could of cleaned up a lot of things but holding together I think is something that we do really well, is coming back and getting the next point and trying to focus on that part. It was first game in the NCAA tournament and we have gotten that out of the way, now we need to play our game from here on out no matter what.
On playing Missouri and how much it means:
“I think it’s really exciting just because we have never had the chance to play them before and knowing the history and rivalry. It’s always fun to play new teams and to play a team that has a history with us. We are really excited because we know that they are going to be a good team and were going to have to play our best to finish that game.
On if she was nervous:
“I would say I am kind of strange as an athlete that I really don’t get that nervous for games, so I just try to look at it as every game is the same. I just approach each game the same way I play so nerves is something I really don’t have to deal with too much.