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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Balanced attack leads KU volleyball past Kansas State in Sunflower Showdown

KU volleyball plays its first match in the newly renovated Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena against Morehead State Thursday, Sept. 12.

KU volleyball plays its first match in the newly renovated Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena against Morehead State Thursday, Sept. 12.

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The Kansas volleyball team entered Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown with the lowest hitting percentage in the Big 12. However, in one of the biggest matches of the season, the offense delivered in a big way to push Kansas past Kansas State in front of a sellout crowd at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena.

The Jayhawks had a .314 hitting percentage in the match on their way to a 25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24 win over their in-state rival. Kansas had a .172 attack percentage prior to the match.

“We had nine attack errors in the first three sets, which is outstanding,” Kansas coach Ray Bechard said. “Our passing was good, and our setting put our attackers in good situations, and then the attackers came through and did good work.

“We were hard to defend because we were very balanced.”

Bechard credited that balance to junior setter Sara Nielsen, who had 44 assists and helped five players rack up at least nine kills.

“Just the distribution, the decisions she made,” Bechard said of Nielsen, “I thought she was as good as she’s been for quite some time.”

Kansas (8-16, 4-9 Big 12) never trailed in an opening set where it had a .517 attack percentage and opened up a 12-6 lead on a kill from Rachel Langs. The sophomore led the Jayhawks with 13 kills in the match on 18 attempts.

“That kill efficiency is pretty amazing,” Bechard said of Langs. “She didn’t feel like she really competed like she wanted at Baylor and went to work Thursday and Friday and said hey, I got to be better. We can make this work.”

Langs put the cherry on top of a strong first by the Jayhawks with a kill set up by Nielsen to clinch the opener.

However, the Wildcats (8-17, 3-10 Big 12) made adjustments on defense to slow down the Jayhawks and eke out a 25-23 win in set two.

Much like in set one, the Jayhawks used a strong start to the third set to snatch momentum, as Ashley Smith recorded one of her 10 kills to give Kansas an 8-4 lead. Cam Ennis (12 kills) and Gracie Van Driel (nine kills) steadied the offense.

But the Wildcats hung around all set before a kill from Morgan Christon gave the Jayhawks a two set to one lead.

Kansas State didn’t make things easy in the fourth as neither team led by more than 4 points, but the Jayhawks worked their way to a 24-22 lead and a pair of match points.

Kansas State junior Brynn Carlson saved one match point with one of her team-high 12 kills, and a Kansas attack error tied the score at 24.

But Christon, just a freshman, delivered two huge swings to lift the Jayhawks to a win in front of a capacity crowd.

“That’s a freshman taking a big-time swing,” Bechard said of Christon. “That’s why we have such high hopes for her.

“We were really focused at the end of the third and fourth set and made enough good plays to make it happen.”

KU travels to Texas at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Comments

Layne Pierce 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Bville

We signed 6 new players for next year. Problem is by my count we only had 3 spots, so does that mean 3 players are leaving? What do you think? And which 3?

RCJH

Bville Hawk 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Layne, as I understand it a D1 program can have 12 on scholarship in womens volleyball. We currently have 15 on our roster, so I don't even know who is scholarship and who isn't. Apparently in D1 volleyball they cannot split scholarships as they can in some other sports. We are obviously losing 3 seniors (Hill, Smith, Nelson), bringing in 6 newcomers puts the roster at 18 so some are evidently not returning.

We brought in 5 freshman this year.

Looking at the top of the Big 12, Baylor has 20 on its roster with 6 true freshman, Texas has just 13 on its roster with 3 true freshman. Among other programs ISU has 16 on its roster with 7 true freshman, OU has 17 on its roster with 4 true freshman.

Bville Hawk 2 weeks, 4 days ago

It was nice to see us attacking all along the net today. Van Driel and Langs in the middle, Christon, Ennis, Smith, and Langs on the sides. Ennis a couple times from the back row and even Ennis a couple swings from the left side where I believe her hitting percentage was 100%. Beating the Wildcats always feels good!

Layne Pierce 2 weeks, 2 days ago

Bville Thanks for the roster information. I hope no one leaves. And I hope we don't start out next year like it is a rebuilding year, because it should not be. It should be a year in which Ennis and Langs, continue to get better, and Christon begins to hit a higher percentage. VanDriel, Cairrier and Hickman all play meaningful roles, Nielsen is the setter, and the new setter gets a chance to develop.

I imagine Ferris and Angelo, will be the defensive players, but maybe the next recruit will challenge for Libero position. And of course Suter and Mostrom will come in for service.

Let's hope this was really a wake up call.

RCJH

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