Three losses in their final four matches of the regular season cost the Kansas volleyball team the opportunity to host the first and second rounds of next week's NCAA Tournament.
But the Jayhawks are firmly in the field and will be matched up with a couple of familiar foes during the tournament's opening week.
Placed in the region with No. 1 overall seed Penn State, Kansas will take on former Border War rival Missouri on Friday in Wichita, with the winner moving on to face the winner of Wichita State's match with Radford in Round 2.
Kansas has faced both Missouri and Wichita State during recent NCAA Tournaments and has unique rivalries with both programs.
The 16th-seeded Shockers were the final team to earn the right to host the first two rounds.
Also hosting in the first two rounds are Big 12 foes Texas, Baylor and Iowa State.
Despite their struggles down the stretch, the Jayhawks, which reached their first ever Final Four two seasons ago, have their eyes on a return trip to the Final Four to send the seven seniors responsible for the rise of the program out in style.
This year's Final Four will take place down the road at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., and the Jayhawks have dubbed their upcoming journey “The Road to Kansas City.”
Stay in touch with Kusports.com the rest of the night for more reaction to KU's draw.
The Kansas women's volleyball team, ranked No. 6 in the country with a 15-2 record, will play host to Sunflower State rival Kansas State at 6 p.m. tonight at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
If you're like most Kansas fans in the area, getting a ticket for the Jayhawks' sold-out, always-wild home venue will be next to impossible. But that doesn't mean you can't see the action.
The Jayhawks, whose two losses this season have come to No. 4 Texas, in Austin, and No. 22 Purdue, also on the road, will play this one on national television on ESPNU.
The Jayhawks have been ranked in the Top 25 of the AVCA poll for a program-record 22-consecutive weeks dating back to last season, including 18-consecutive times in the Top 10. KU finished last season ranked No. 4 after advancing to the Final Four.
Kansas State leads the all-time series with Kansas, 61-42, but the Jayhawks have won seven of the last eight meetings with the Wildcats, including a series sweep last season and a pair of wins over ranked K-State teams in 2012.
Tonight's showdown features one of the top defensive teams in the conference — KU leads the Big 12 in four defensive categories — against one of the most potent offenses.
It also features yet another opportunity for the Jayhawks to lay it on the line in honor of academic advisor Scott "Scooter" Ward who remains in the hospital after surgery to repair a tear in his aorta last Friday. Updates from those who have made the trip to visit with Ward have been increasingly encouraging and doctors continue to be pleased and surprised by his progress during the recovery process.
KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard recently penned the following letter to express what Ward means to the program:
It is seldom in life that you come across someone as inspirational as our academic counselor, Scott "Scooter" Ward.
He has faced so much adversity in his own life, but never do you hear him complain about his own circumstance. Rather than do that, he puts all of his energy into helping others and creating opportunities for the people around him to get better. He has done that for everyone involved in our volleyball program.
As we all became aware of Scooter's (emergency open-heart surgery) situation last Friday and we spent time together processing that, it was clear how every team member felt about him – how important it is to all of us that he gets a full recovery and what a joy it will be when he returns.
Our team realizes how much he cares about them and how badly he wants them to succeed. He is there for them beyond the academic support level. He is willing to listen and impart words of wisdom. He cares about the individual. He has devoted his entire career to preparing young men and women for life.
It is very difficult to come up with a way to thank a person like that, other than be the best we can be in his absence right now. On his return, hopefully we can continue to be that way. We look forward to that day when he is back with us full-time and supporting us at the level he always has.
Our team will continue to move forward and we will honor his absence by being the type of people and team he would be proud of.
— Ray Bechard
The Kansas University volleyball team is headed to the program's first ever Final Four, next week in Omaha, thanks to a thrilling five-set victory over top seed USC on Saturday night in San Diego.
After winning the first two sets with some elite volleyball, the Jayhawks fell flat in sets 3 and 4 and needed a wild comeback to pull out set 5. Trailing 13-9 in the fifth and decisive set, KU ripped off six straight points to stun USC and take the match.
The Jayhawks now will play fourth-seeded Nebraska in Omaha on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. central time. The winner advances to the national title match to face the winner of the Texas-Minnesota showdown.
Be sure to check out KUsports.com throughout the upcoming week for all kinds of KU volleyball coverage.
For now, here's a quick look at some highlights and interviews from San Diego.
The Kansas University volleyball team, ranked ninth in the country and seeded as the No. 9 overall team in this year's NCAA Tournament, left Lawrence a little after noon today for the airport and a flight to San Diego, where the Jayhawks will play in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons.
KU, which advanced to the San Diego regional site with home wins over Furman and Missouri, will play Loyola-Marymount at 7:30 p.m. Friday with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line.
LMU enters the match having won 5 straight matches while the Jayhawks enter at 28-2.
In case you missed it, here's a look at some of what we've written so far this week about the volleyball team's run in this year's tournament. Be sure to stay logged on to KUsports.com throughout the week for much more from San Diego, as Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan will be on the ground in southern California.
Memories from 2003
From Matt Tait: Former KU libero Jill Dorsey looks back at KU's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament and discusses why this team is ready to go farther.
Ready for more
From Matt Tait: Kansas learned a little something during its last trip to the Sweet 16 and the Jayhawks are ready to take the next step this weekend.
Horejsi kind to Kansas
From Matt Tait: The Jayhawks may have hosted NCAA Tournament matches for the fourth year in a row but playing in their home gym made it a different experience.
From Gary Bedore: KU swept Border War rival Mizzou in dramatic fashion to advance to the Sweet 16.
On to the Next Round
From Gary Bedore: The Jayhawks made quick work of Furman in Round 1 to advance to the NCAA Tournament's second round.
What's Up, Dock?
From Tom Keegan: Senior Tiana Dockery, the first KU player to appear in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments is living proof that Kansas volleyball is for real.
Honors Roll In
From KUsports.com KU coach Ray Bechard and sophomore setter Ainise Havili lead charge for KU's all-Big 12 postseason honors.
Friday night, inside Horejsi Center on the Kansas University campus, KU's ninth-ranked volleyball team knocked off No. 25 Missouri, three sets to none, in a second-round NCAA Tournament match and the first meeting between Border War rivals since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.
The victory, which came in dramatic fashion — KU won the third set 27-25 despite trailing 24-20 — pushed Kansas (28-2) into its second Sweet 16 in program history (and second in three seasons) next week in San Diego.
KU, the tourney's No. 9 overall seed, will face Loyola-Marymount, which upset perennial power Stanford, the No. 8 seed, in the second round.
A victory against Loyola-Marymount would propel the Jayhawks to their first ever Elite Eight appearance, where No. 1 overall seed USC likely would be waiting.
Here's a look at some highlights and the postgame comments following Friday's Border War victory.
The Kansas University volleyball team opened NCAA Tournament play with a convincing three-set sweep of Furman on Thursday night at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
After hosting the NCAA Tournament in Allen Fieldhouse for the past couple of years, the Jayhawks were able to play in their true home venue this season after the NCAA lifted the capacity requirement from host sites.
As always, Horejsi was packed and full of that KU volleyball vibe that has made it one of the best home-court advantages in the Big 12.
Here's a quick look at some of Thursday's highlights and postgame reaction. KU will play Border War rival Missouri tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Horejsi, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 in San Diego.