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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Kansas ends Baylor’s 10-match volleyball winning streak

Kansas junior Tayler Soucie spikes the ball past Baylor's Katie Staiger, left, Tola Itiola (15) and Shelly Fanning (5) during their volleyball match Saturday afternoon at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas junior Tayler Soucie spikes the ball past Baylor's Katie Staiger, left, Tola Itiola (15) and Shelly Fanning (5) during their volleyball match Saturday afternoon at the Horejsi Center.

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Baylor’s Katie Staiger and Madison Rigdon of Kansas came out on fire Saturday afternoon in Horejsi Center. They both bruised the floorboards with high-velocity, steep shots.

In the end, Kansas prevailed, 3-1, after losing the first set because the home team had answers for Staiger (22-25, 25-19, 25-13, 25-23). Namely, Kelsie Payne and Tayler Soucie, standing tall and playing tough at the net.

Baylor couldn’t afford to concentrate on Rigdon the way Kansas did on Staiger because Jayhawks setter Ainise Havili has too many other places to go with the ball.

Rigdon led Kansas with 20 blocks and 13 digs, her sixth double-double of the season and Payne and Soucie played a big role in cooling off Staiger, who had six kills and a .462 hitting percentage in the first set and finished the day with 14 kills and a .037 percentage.

“When we got in front of her and ended plays, that creates a little bit of a confidence issue,” Kansas coach Ray Bechard said of slowing down Staiger. “Soucie and Payne were doing it at key times.”

Payne was putting the Bears on the defensive as well, putting her stamp all over the final set and finishing the match with 17 kills and a .389 hitting percentage.

The better Rigdon performs, the less teams can afford to key on Payne.

“We’ve done a good job in practice of splitting it up,” Rigdon said. “Something we’ve been working on is spreading the offense out so people have one-on-ones.”

With the victory, Kansas (13-2, 2-1 in the Big 12, No. 8 in AVCA poll) ended Baylor’s 10-match winning streak. The Bears (14-5, 2-1) opened Big 12 play with sweeps of 23rd-ranked Kansas State and Texas Tech.

“The Bears are for real,” Bechard said. "And they’re down (two players). They’ve dealt with some injuries.

“Of all the teams we’ve played this year, that team plays more for each other and plays as hard as anybody. They’re legit. That’ll be an NCAA tournament team. I don’t think there’s any question.”

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