NCAA Tournament: Kansas Ends Sweet Run Against Third-Seeded Washington, 3-0

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LOS ANGELES – For 45-consecutive matches, 14th-seeded Kansas had not been swept, thanks in large part to the storied careers of the seven-member senior class. On Friday, KU’s historical run to the Sweet 16 saw No. 3-seeded Washington break that streak and bring those careers to a close at the Los Angeles regional semifinal, Friday evening at the Galen Center on the campus of USC, 18-25, 13-25, 24-26.
The newness of the Jayhawks’ (25-8) first trip to the Sweet 16 was offset by a veteran Washington (29-2) squad, who made its eighth trip to the regional semifinals in 12 years and will advance to play the winner of (6) USC and BYU in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
“Tonight was very tough and we need to talk about that, but we also really need to celebrate some great careers from these young ladies,” Big 12 Coach of the Year Ray Bechard said. “Obviously, tonight Washington played much better than we did and we need to credit them. We hadn’t been beat by a team 3-0 all year, and we’re one of the few teams in the country that can say that so it’s very disappointing. But I do want to thank this group and this team for the joy and energy they’ve given us, not only this year but their entire careers.”
The Huskies did everything right, holding Kansas to an .082 attack percentage – the first time this season the Jayhawks hit less than .100 – especially in the first two sets, where KU registered 20 kills compared to 19 errors before intermission. After the break, a much more familiar Kansas team emerged. The Jayhawks held the lead throughout much of the third set, until back-to-back Jayhawk errors pushed Washington to match point, 24-23. KU fought it off once to tie it the score, but the Huskies recorded two-straight kills to close the book on Kansas’ 2013 season. The sweep marked the first since being swept at No. 9 Texas on Oct. 12, 2012. The Longhorns went on to win the national championship.
Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton led the Jayhawks with eight kills, but offset that with eight errors which proved to be the theme of the night as no Jayhawk recorded double-digit kills for the first time this season. Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie led the offense with a .250 attack percentage with six kills and three errors on 12 swings.
Fellow middle, redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc, tallied seven kills and two errors to end her record-breaking career with 1,333 kills – the second most all-time by a Jayhawk. Also leaving a legacy among the Jayhawk seniors were Brianne Riley and Erin McNorton.
Doing what she does, Riley led all players with 12 digs to cement herself in the Kansas record books. Her 2,053 career digs rank fourth all-time in Big 12 history and are nearly 600 more than second place on KU’s career digs list. McNorton led the floor with 29 assists, bringing the 2013 Big 12 Setter of the Year’s season total to 1,517 – just eight short of the most by a Jayhawk in a season (Julie Woodruff, 1,525, 1991). Her 3,089 career assists rank sixth all-time at Kansas.
The Huskies were led by the Pac-12 Player of the Year, junior outside hitter Krista Vansant, who was the only player to record double-digit kills (10). Kansas never let Washington’s efficiency get out of control. The Huskies committed 13 errors on 96 swings for a .240 attack percentage, but serving and blocking sealed the deal for the high seed. UW came in as the fifth-best serving team in the country and finished the evening with a 6-0 ace advantage. The Huskies also outdid the Jayhawks at the net, 9.0 to 4.0.
Four different Jayhawks recorded kills in KU’s first five points as the teams got out to a back-and-forth start in the opening frame. Jarmoc knocked down her second kill in the early moments to take a 6-5 lead before the Huskies opened up for a 6-0 run. Trailing 11-6, Bechard used his first timeout. While Kansas took aggressive swings, many of them landed out or were quickly dug by the Washington defense. When the Huskies doubled-up the score, 18-9, Kansas called its last timeout of the set looking to regroup.
The Jayhawks used the pause to their advantage, getting themselves back into system for long rallies against the high seed. Though momentum wasn’t on their side, the Jayhawks put together a run anyway. McClinton came in and provided a spark with two big kills, sparking a 5-0 Kansas run to get the Jayhawks back in it, 21-16. She and Jarmoc finished the first set with a combined six kills and no errors, but weren’t able to slow the Huskies. A service ace followed by a kill from sophomore middle blocker Melanie Wade brought the Huskies closer to set point. One final kill from Kylin Munoz handed Washington the early lead in the match, 25-18.  
Washington entered the night with an astounding 1.76 aces per set, good for fifth in the country. It showed on Friday as back-to-back aces from senior setter Jenni Nogueras saw the Huskies sprint out to a 9-2 lead to start set number two. As KU looked for rhythm, the Huskies got a piece of every Jayhawk attack. KU found ways around them, highlighted by kills from Jarmoc, Soucie and Albers en route to a 5-0 run, but the Huskies kept their distance, 16-9.
Trailing 19-10, Bechard called a timeout as his team kept pace with the Huskies in the kills column – 18 apiece – but the Jayhawks were plagued by a crippling 17 errors. Carmichael came through with two more kills as KU worked to fight off set point, but a service error ended the set and sent Kansas to break trailing two sets to none, 25-13. No Jayhawk tallied more than two kills in the frame as KU finished the set with nine kills compared to 11 errors and suffered a 5.0 to 1.0 blocking deficit.
Champions of the Pac-12, Washington started Friday’s match a foreboding 18-0 when leading two sets to none. Determined to be the first to break the trend, Kansas came out of set three much more settled and ready to attack. Kills from Jarmoc, redshirt senior Catherine Carmichael and Jarmoc got the ball rolling as KU collected seven kills through the first 12 points to open up its largest lead of the evening, 12-9. Using an athletic swing, McClinton slammed down another kill to keep the Jayhawks in front for the media timeout, 15-13.
Kansas kept clawing, getting vital kills from Soucie and McClinton thanks to diving digs by Riley and McNorton, and the Jayhawks won the war to 20 points, 20-19. Two-straight scores from the Huskies, including their sixth ace of the night, saw the high seed climb in front, 21-20, prompting a KU timeout.
The Jayhawks responded as loudly as they could, getting a kill from Soucie and benefitting from an attack error to pull in front, 23-22. An aggressive serve resulted in an error and was followed up with an attack error to all but void the Jayhawks’ fight to get back in it. Taking advantage, Washington got two-straight kills from Wade to end the match and the 2013 Kansas season.
– Senior libero Brianne Riley’s 12 digs ends her career at fourth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (2,053), behind former Baylor standout Allison King (2,110; 2008-11).
– Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie’s three blocks wrapped up her status as the Kansas freshman record for the most blocks in a single season with 135 total blocks.
– With seven kills against Washington, redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc strengthened her hold on second place for all-time for career kills at Kansas (1,333).
– With one block against Washington, Jarmoc completed her career as KU’s all-time block leader (555), which ranks eighth all-time in Big 12 history.
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