Kansas volleyball caps 2020 season with series sweep of Texas Tech

The Jayhawks celebrate a point during their four-set, season-ending victory over Texas Tech on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena.

The Jayhawks celebrate a point during their four-set, season-ending victory over Texas Tech on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena.

Friday, November 20, 2020

For the second night in a row, the Kansas volleyball team used early momentum and physical play at the net to knock off Texas Tech at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, 25-17, 27-29, 25-17, 25-20.

The win bookended the Jayhawks’ season with home victories — they opened the season with a five-set win over Baylor on Sept. 25 — and was the third victory in the last four matches for the young Jayhawks.

Kansas (5-9) closed the season by winning four of its final six matches.

“There’s an upward trajectory with this team right now,” KU coach Ray Bechard said after the match. “And I think we’re on a really good path.”

After taking the opening set with ease on Friday, KU continued its roll in the second and led 20-15 late.

But Texas Tech used a 7-1 run to claim the lead and closed that set on a 14-7 run to end KU’s hopes of recording a three-set sweep.

Instead, the Jayhawks settled for a series sweep, their first of the season.

Senior Jenny Mosser, who led Kansas with 17 kills, said the Jayhawks did not talk much about the end of the season heading into this week’s matches.

“It’s definitely in the back of your mind,” Mosser said. “And of course we always want to go out and attack and play hard, but we weren’t really focused on the outcome. We just wanted to play well.”

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Kansas volleyball senior Jenny Mosser tracks down a ball against Texas Tech on Friday, November 20, 2020, in Lawrence, Kan. KU won 25-17, 27-29, 25-17, 25-20, capping their season with a series sweep.

More than any of the statistics or specific moments, Mosser said one thing from Friday’s victory stood out above all else.

“It was important for us to finish the season strong for sure,” she said. “But it mostly just feels good to go out like this.”

Backed by 12 kills from Caroline Crawford, 10 more from Anezka Szabo and six kills and four blocks by Rachel Langs, KU dominated at the net and displayed extreme hustle in all four sets.

But the Jayhawks also caught some breaks. Midway through the fourth set, Ayah Elnady (eight kills) dug a rocket with her foot. The defensive gem kept KU in the point, and the Jayhawks went up 15-7 moments later. It was that kind of night for the home team, which controlled most of the match from start to finish.

Defensively, sophomore Kennedy Farris recorded a career-high in digs for the second consecutive night. Her 31 digs on Friday included eight in the first set alone and topped the 25 she logged during Thursday's victory over Tech.

“Everything just came together tonight,” said freshman setter Elise McGhie, who capped off a strong first season with 44 assists to help KU hit .253 for the night.

“The thing I liked about tonight was we were pretty consistent all night,” Bechard added.

When KU wasn’t rolling on its own, Texas Tech did its best to help. The Red Raiders hurt themselves all night from behind the serving line. TTU (5-11) committed 16 serving errors — both long and wide — compared to just six for Kansas.

Despite KU announcing it would not have fans in the stands at home games for the rest of November, roughly 85 people were in attendance on Friday night. KU officials said players from both sides were allowed up to four guests apiece.

Texas Tech, which lists 21 players on its 2020 roster, had just 11 players suited up for Friday’s finale.

After taking their lumps throughout the middle portion of the season, the Jayhawks, who played four freshmen and a sophomore in their regular rotation all season, will finish the year in the middle of the Big 12 standings.

While Mosser and McGhie said that would be better to look at years from now when they look back at the 2020 standings, they were more excited about the fact that the entire roster is planning to return next season, including Mosser, who came to KU as a graduate transfer from UCLA.

“That’s the plan,” Mosser said with enthusiasm after Friday’s victory.

While that’s good news on the roster front, Bechard said just getting this young team on the court and actually making it through the season was reason enough to celebrate.

“For us to get 14 of our 16 matches in was great,” Bechard said. “About 90% of the teams out there didn’t play any. And the experience this group got this season was just so valuable.”