History: No. 9 Kansas Advances to Elite Eight

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SAN DIEGO – Kansas volleyball has made history.

The 9th-ranked Jayhawks defeated Loyola Marymount, 3-1 (25-19, 25-11, 21-25, 25-13), on Friday night at Jenny Craig Pavilion to advance to the program’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Regional Finals.

Sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne led the Jayhawks with 21 kills on a .400 hitting percentage, while fellow sophomore Madison Rigdon posted her seventh double-double of the season with 10 kills and 14 digs.

“We’ve made an effort all season to take it one match at a time no matter who our opponent is,” Payne said after the match. “We prepare the same. We put as much effort into every match. That’s what has made us so successful tonight and this season.”

The Jayhawks (29-2) held Loyola Marymount to a .050 team hitting percentage thanks in large part to junior middle blocker Tayler Soucie’s 12 blocks and junior libero Cassie Wait’s 23 digs. Kansas rejected Loyola Marymount at the net a season-high 15 times.

Although she finished with her seventh 20-kill performance of the season, Payne started the match slow with one kill and three attacking errors as the Lions and Jayhawks played to an 11-11 tie in the first set. But from that point on, Payne would record just two attacking errors for the rest of the night.

Payne finished the first set with six kills as Kansas opened the match with a 25-19 first-set victory.

The Jayhawks’ block was large as ever in the second set, recording eight in the second stanza alone to frustrate the Lions’ offense to the tune of 13 attacking errors for a -.184 hitting percentage. Five of Soucie’s 12 blocks came in the second set.

The Jayhawks went into intermission leading by a pair of sets after closing the second on an 11-2 run.

Parts of KU’s 25-21 third-set loss looked as if it would mirror KU’s third-set win over Missouri in the second round, when KU erased deficits of 18-12 and 24-21 to sweep the Tigers and advance to San Diego last week. During Friday’s third set, Kansas fell behind early after a four-point run by the Lions, 8-4. Despite a late KU rally that closed the gap to two points, 20-18, LMU would restore its four-point cushion to close the match with a 25-21 victory.

Kansas bounced back from its third-set loss with a dominating 25-13 win in the fourth set. The Jayhawks closed the match with 16 kills on a .484 hitting percentage to remain unbeaten (10-0) during the fourth set this season.

Sophomore defensive specialist Tori Miller subbed in for the Jayhawks and made the most of her playing time with two digs and an ace on the night. Her ace came while serving during a 6-0 Kansas run in the fourth set that provided comfortable margin on the way to a match-clinching 25-13 victory.

Loyola Marymount (24-9) was led by 13 kills from Sarah Sponcil. The Lions advanced to the round of 16 after sweeping No. 8 Stanford on the road at Maples Pavilion last week.

Kansas will look to take one more uncharted step into the record books while facing overall No. 1 seed USC on Saturday night (10 p.m. CT, ESPNU). A berth in KU’s first-ever NCAA semifinals will be on the line.

• KANSAS IN THE NCAAs: Kansas advances to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship Regional Final (Elite Eight). Friday marked KU’s second appearance in the Regional Semifinals (Sweet 16). Kansas improves to 8-6 in seven appearances in the NCAA Championship.
• KU-LMU SERIES: Kansas now leads the series against Loyola Marymount, 2-1. All three meetings have been on neutral site locations, but this was the first during NCAA postseason play.
• RECORD KEEPING: Kansas is… 11-2 against 2015 NCAA tournament teams … 22-0 when taking a two-set lead in a match … 10-0 in the fourth set.
• BLOCK PARTY: Kansas recorded a season-high 15 blocks on 26 block-assists and two solo blocks. Tayler Soucie led with a team season-high 12 blocks. It sets a KU record for total blocks in a four-set NCAA postseason match. The Jayhawks posted eight blocks in the second set alone against LMU.
• SUB .100: Loyola Marymount is the fifth opponent that KU has held to a hitting percentage under .100. The Lions hit on a .050 clip (37k-30e-141a). The only other KU opponent to hit for a lower percentage this season was Wyoming (.030). Kansas has recorded a higher hitting percentage than its opponent in 29 of 31 matches this season. After three postseason matches, Kansas is holding opponents to a .079 hitting percentage.
• DOMINATING SECOND & FOURTH SETS: Kansas had just 10 kills in the second set, but scored eight points off blocks and seven points off LMU attacking or ball-handling errors. KU’s side-out rate was 90 percent (10-11) in the second set. KU recorded a .484 hitting percentage (16k-1e-31a) in the fourth set with a 76 percent side-out clip (10-13).

Senior OH Tiana Dockery
• 8 kills, 10 digs
• Reached double-figure digs for the eighth time this season.
• Improves to 102-29 during her four-year career at Kansas, including a 6-3 mark in the NCAA Championship.

Sophomore RS Kelsie Payne
• 21 kills, .400 hitting percentage, 5 blocks
• Recorded just two attacking errors in the second, third and fourth sets combined.
• Set a KU record for kills in a four-set NCAA postseason match.
• Reached 456 total kills this season and needs just seven to pass Allison Mayfield (463) and set KU’s single-season kills record.
• Seventh 20-kill performance of the season.
• Led Kansas in kills for the 23rd time this season.
• Fifth match with five blocks or more.

Sophomore OH Madison Rigdon
• 10 kills, 14 digs, 7 blocks
• Nearly registered KU’s first triple-double of the season, settling for her seventh double-double of the season.
• Leads Kansas in kill-dig double-doubles (7) this season.

Junior MB Tayler Soucie
• Season-high 12 blocks, 8 kills
• First double-figure blocks output by a Jayhawk this season.
• Most blocks by a Jayhawk since she recorded a career-high 13 against Oklahoma on Nov. 29, 2014.
• Posted seven blocks in the second set alone.
• Led Kansas is blocks for the 22nd time this season.

Junior L Cassie Wait
• 23 digs
• Moved into fourth on KU’s career digs list (1,326), passing Adrian Powel (1988-91; 1,325).
• 10th 20-dig performance this season, including the fifth in the last nine matches.
• Has led KU in digs 28 time this season.

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