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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sophomore’s return sparks KU

Jayhawks rally to beat Iowa State, 3-2

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Jenna Kaiser's familiarity with her warm-up jacket was beginning to grow old.

For five weeks, the sophomore outside hitter never removed the pregame garb to enter a match for Kansas University's volleyball team. A strained ligament in her right elbow had forced her to the sideline.

Saturday afternoon, the warm-ups came off, and she stepped on the court for the first time this season.

It was worth the wait.

Kaiser's return coincided with the Jayhawks' most exhilarating performance of the season, a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory against Iowa State (21-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-10).

"Obviously, Kaiser just adds a whole new element to our team," KU coach Ray Bechard said, "and she'll get better."

Kaiser admitted she felt a bit rusty and a step slower than her teammates. She wasn't cleared by medical personnel to play full-speed until Thursday. But her swing looked to be in mid-season form already.

Playing in all five sets, Kaiser contributed 10 kills. The 6-footer even added a block on the front line for good measure.

"The only thing I could do was help the other outside hitters who were out there," Kaiser said of her time rehabbing. "You learn so much from watching other people play. It was kind of a positive thing. Other girls got experience, which was great."

Iowa State (9-4) did its best to spoil the day.

The first two sets featured 17 ties and 10 lead changes, but Kansas had nothing to show for keeping the match close. Iowa State's Rachel Hockaday emphatically smacked a kill off junior Katie Martincich's outstretched fingertips, putting the Cyclones ahead, 2-0, at the intermission and sucking the air out of the Horejsi Center.

"We knew we were really, really close the whole time with Iowa State," sophomore Karina Garlington said. "We were playing pretty well. They were just playing really well, too."

After the break, however, the Jayhawks took over, stringing together perhaps their most consistent three sets of the season. Kansas (7-4) never trailed in either the third or fifth sets. KU jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the final set behind four Garlington kills.

In what is becoming commonplace for Kansas, Garlington set another career high with 29 kills. Freshman setter Nicole Tate contributed 58 assists in the two-hour match.

When senior Natalie Uhart ended the drama with a kill for KU's final point, her teammates mobbed her in front of the net.

Kaiser, for one, simply was happy the embrace occurred with her jacket tossed under a folding chair by the Gatorade cooler.

The victory snapped ISU's four-game winning streak and ended KU's skid at two games.

Bechard said the victory, KU's first in Big 12 play, occurred at a most opportune time. Kansas takes on No. 2 Nebraska in its next match, followed by No. 3 Texas.

"Wins are fine, but until you beat somebody good, I don't think you really gain the competitive confidence you need," Bechard said. "I think this obviously will help us in that direction."

Comments

elamere 11 years, 5 months ago

Great job, Jayhawks! ISU is a great team, and this is certainly a big win for KU. Congratulations Ray, Christy, and especially the ladies!

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