Sometimes all it takes is a wake up call.
The Kansas volleyball team got the message after dropping the first set to TCU, 21-25. The Jayhawks went on to win the next three sets (25-16, 25-16, 25-17) to extend their winning streak to 11 consecutive matches.
“Sometimes when you get bounced in the first set, much like we did against Texas, then the response is pretty good for this team,” coach Ray Bechard said. “I don’t want to make that a habit but so far the response has been pretty good. When you think about a good team and you win 16, 16, 17, that’s impressive.”
The latest come-from-behind victory at Horjesi Family Athletics Center helped No. 4 Kansas clinch at least a second-place finish in the Big 12 this year. KU has finished second the previous three seasons.
However, the Jayhawks (23-2, 12-1 Big 12) have much bigger aspirations on the horizon. Following a Texas loss to Iowa State on Saturday, they sit alone atop the conference standings with three matches left to play in the regular season.
“It’s definitely bittersweet to know there is only one home game left,” senior Tayler Soucie said. “It’s definitely motivation (to keep winning games). It’s a great environment and I want to play here as long as I can.”
Saturday’s efforts helped keep those dreams alive, at least for another day. But for a brief moment their prospects started to look bleak.
TCU came out strong in the first set, unfazed by the hostile environment, or the fact it had been swept by KU on Oct. 15 in Fort Worth.
In the first set, there were a total of eight ties and three lead changes before TCU ultimately closed it out. It marked the sixth time that KU had dropped the first set in league play. Still, only once has the team been unable to recover.
“We started communicating better and playing better as a team,” junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon said. “We started focusing on our side and not their side. Our blocking went up and our defense got better, too. We worked better cohesively as a group.”
Kansas recovered in dominating fashion in set two. The Jayhawks took a commanding early lead, 9-3, and then never really looked back. Rigdon led the way with five kills in the set and logged 20 on the afternoon.
The Jayhawks swarmed TCU (11-12, 4-9) with their defensive effort, out-blocking their opponent, 14-3.5. Soucie notched a season-high 11 blocks.
“Getting blocks and defense is something we have been priding ourselves on this season,” Soucie said. “Especially in practice, that’s been our focus. That’s where we were slacking (in that first set).”
Kansas will travel to West Virginia (12-14, 3-9) for conference clash at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We know we are going to see teams down the stretch that create a little bit of a target on our back,” Bechard said. “West Virginia might not be in the conversation in the NCAA tournament but they are as much improved as anybody.”