Originally published December 4, 2015 at 08:14p.m., updated December 5, 2015 at 12:29a.m.

KU volleyball sweeps Mizzou, advances to 2nd Sweet 16 in program history

Kansas players rush the court following their three set sweep of Missouri in the second round of the NCAA volleyball tournament Friday evening at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas players rush the court following their three set sweep of Missouri in the second round of the NCAA volleyball tournament Friday evening at the Horejsi Center.


Kansas University volleyball coach Ray Bechard considered various motivational tactics leading up to Friday night’s KU-Missouri showdown in Horejsi Center.

“Jim Marchiony (associate AD) thought we should have Fambrough come back and talk to ’em before we started this match. Then we talked about it again. We said, ‘You know what? These kids don’t understand all that.’

“Our players wanted to go to San Diego. They knew if they beat Furman and won one more match after that, they got that chance,” 18th-year coach Bechard said after the Jayhawks indeed punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in California by blasting Mizzou, 3-0.

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KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard and players after earning program's 2nd trip to Sweet 16

KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard and players Ainise Havili, Tayler Soucie and Kelsie Payne talk about sweeping Missouri Friday night to earn the program's 2nd ever trip to Sweet 16.

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Kansas fans throw their hands in the air after Kansas comes from behind to win the third set and the match during Kansas' second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Missouri on Friday night at the Horejsi Center. The Jayhawks sent the Tigers packing with a three set sweep.

The Jayhawks — who befuddled Furman, 3-0, in the first-round of the NCAAs on Thursday — needed no tape of Missouri-hater/late KU football coach Don Fambrough before dominating the first two sets, 25-16, 25-13. The Jayhawks trailed 24-20 in the third set before concocting a remarkable 27-25 comeback victory.

“I think everybody was excited for this game right after we beat Furman,” said sophomore setter Ainise Havili, who dished 40 assists with 12 digs and four kills. She fed Kelsie Payne (16 kills, two errors) for a pair of kills that ended the match.

“I think we’ve been waiting for this it seemed like forever, but it was only what, a couple hours? We were all really excited for this,” Havili added.

The Jayhawks’ fast start, which was aided by Tayler Soucie’s seven blocks and a variety of kills by Payne, Tiana Dockery (nine), Madison Rigdon (eight), Soucie (seven) and Janae Hall (five) off pinpoint passes by Havili, proved pivotal for a KU team that will meet Loyola Marymount (24-8) in a Sweet 16 contest Friday in San Diego.

“I think the crowd (1,300 fans) helped with that a lot, before we even got here,” Fort Worth, Texas, native Havili said. “We really pride ourselves on starting early. I don’t think we lost a lot of first or second sets this year, so that’s been great.”

“Everything was flowing real well. I felt really natural. We were really in tune with each other,” said Payne, a sophomore from Austin, Texas.

Of her assortment of blocks that helped set the tone against the Tigers (27-6), Osawatomie junior Soucie said: “Blocking is what gets me pumped. If you can block somebody, you kind of get in their heads a bit. Our pins were doing a good job of setting up the block. Me and Janae (Hall, three blocks) were doing what we do every day in practice.”

Maggie Anderson’s serving late, plus the combination of Havili-to-Payne helped KU erase that 24-20 deficit in the final set.

“Probably,” Payne said, asked if her final two kills were the most memorable of her career. “Starting now, I think I’m going to remember those probably forever.”

“Me, too,” chimed in Bechard.

His Jayhawks improved to 28-2 overall and have reached the Sweet 16 for the second time in school history, the other time 2013.

“When you’ve got a team that played as well as we did in the first two sets ... obviously we knew Missouri would respond,” Bechard said. “To come from behind at 24-20, never lose faith, never lose sight of what we need to do ... I’m extremely proud of getting to move forward and represent the University of Kansas in the regional in the Sweet 16. I would like to commend Missouri on a tremendous year. A lot of teams could come out after the (2-0) break and lay down. They fought hard. This group fought a little harder.”

MU left feeling it left it all on the Horejsi court.

“It’s a little disappointing we couldn’t get that third set, but I’m really proud of how my team fought at the end,” said MU junior Carly Kan, who had 12 kills. “I thought we had a lot of heart in the third set. We were really pushing Kansas. What we did in the third set, I’m proud of the way we responded.”

Noted coach Wayne Kreklow: “Kansas played a great match tonight. They did a lot of things really well. I felt in that third game we started to figure it out, timing, rhythm, just how to play the game. I thought we had a shot to take the third game and push it to four. They made some great plays down the stretch and earned it. They’ve had a great season and are a very good team,” he added, noting his team also had a stellar season in that the Tigers were picked to finish seventh in the SEC and took second, reaching the second round of the tourney.


Waylon Cook 6 years, 5 months ago

S e c! Ladies make this season even more magical next week!

David Kelley-Wood 6 years, 5 months ago

That was oh, soooo nice! Savor it, ladies!

P.S. Wow, just noticed Loyola Marymount is up 2 sets to zip over the #8 seed Stanford. Hmm.

Micky Baker 6 years, 5 months ago

Loyola has been historically good at Volleyball. They have a fine tradition there as far as Volleyball goes.

Brett McCabe 6 years, 5 months ago

RCJHK! Congratulations to a terrific team. Just can't say enough about how you have elevated yourselves and this program. Thank you!

Gerry Butler 6 years, 5 months ago

Awsome match ladies, keep it up. Survive and advance, looking forward to next weekend, I know you will do well been watching all year, we have a lot of weapons love them all, still pretty young yes Dockery is a Senior awesome player vicious hitter but I believe she will help carry us the rest of this season,BUT we have young too, we have THE PAIN TRAIN, awesome player, seems like she can get a kill just about any time she wants, We have Soucie, great blocker and kills, we have HALL complete player, then we have our setter Havili really amazing the sets she makes for her teammates on top of her little dunks keeps the defense on their toes, just never know when she is going to do that, we have Church, & Waite great players looking forward to next weekend ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

Ashwin Rao 6 years, 5 months ago

Times have changed... only one Mizzou hatred comment! Good to know that we have moved on.

Micky Baker 6 years, 5 months ago

Excellent. Exciting for these young ladies. Best hopes for them.

Brad Farha 6 years, 5 months ago

Still on a high from that game. The atmosphere was awesome. Still enough rivalry in the fanbases to make the reaction for every point huge. Loved the hearing "Rock Chalk / Jayhawk!" competing with "M-I-Z Z-O-U!" in the stands.

Talked to a few Mizzou fans after the game, and they said they missed this. I know I do.

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