COURTESY: KU Sports Information
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Junior outside hitters Sara McClinton and Chelsea Albers combined for 25 kills to lead a confident Kansas team to a sweep at Kansas State, Wednesday night inside Ahearn Fieldhouse, 31-29, 26-24, 25-19.
In the 100th all-time meeting between the rivals, Kansas (12-3, 2-0) weathered consistent battling from a resilient Kansas State (12-3, 0-2) squad, fighting off tied scores 33 times and 15 different lead changes. Yet, the Jayhawks never faltered, holding on for the sweep in Manhattan for just the third time in series history (Oct. 17, 2009; Sept. 11, 1981).
“We seem to be pretty composed late,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “They stayed the game plan and made big plays. I think that’s a combination of being both experienced and being in that situation before on the road against good teams. It’s obviously a great win to beat a high-level team on the road, and obviously, there’s some added interest in this match.”
Kansas tied the fifth-longest all-time win streak with its eighth-straight on Wednesday, but it also stands as a notable streak against the Wildcats. The win marked the first time since 1993 that KU has knocked off its in-state rival three times in a row (Nov. 11, 1992; Oct. 6, 1993; Nov. 17, 1993).
Albers set the offensive tone early, racking up six kills in the first set alone. She finished the evening with 12 kills and only two errors to lead the floor with a .476 attack percentage, while her counterpart McClinton led all players with 13 kills. Senior setter Erin McNorton did the dishing, passing out 41 assists and a service ace.
Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie led the defense, rejecting seven Wildcat attacks while racking up nine kills and a .438 attack percentage. Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery and Albers all posted three or more blocks in the win. Behind them was senior libero Brianne Riley who led all players with 14 digs.
Kansas State was led by senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger, but the Jayhawks held the two-time All-American to a .192 hitting percentage. As a unit, KU handily outhit KSU for the evening at .230 to .120.
In the early minutes, a 4-0 Kansas run interrupted the hot start the Wildcats were attempting as the Jayhawks turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. The teams played closely through the first half of set one before a 3-0 Kansas rally forced the home team to take the first timeout of the match trailing, 13-10.
One of 10 KSU errors in the first set, backed by a Jarmoc kill, handed KU its largest lead of the frame at 16-12, but the Wildcats charged back to knot the score at 17-17. Balance was on KU’s side, however, as four different starters had multiple kills before the 20-point mark rolled around – but the set was far from over. After the Wildcats took a 21-19 edge late in the frame, a kill from McClinton quickly helped tie it once again. A block by Soucie and Albers put KU in front, 23-21.
From there, the rivals would go on to tie the score six times after set point, but Kansas wouldn’t surrender control. The Jayhawks scored the last three points to take set one, 31-29.
Kansas State scored first to start set two, but the Jayhawks hurried to correct it and climbed ahead, 7-4, using kills from Albers and Dockery. At the Jayhawks’ 10-point mark, McNorton put a one-handed set directly in Soucie’s line of fire. She connected flawlessly for the kill and KU stayed in front, serving as an example of the confident roll the Jayhawks have taken hold of.
Nevertheless, the Wildcats started chipping away at the KU lead until their 5-0 run saw the home team take a 13-11 advantage and force a Kansas timeout. The short pause saw Kansas come out with five kills and no errors to right the ship, 18-15. Soucie crushed an overpass out of a KSU timeout to cap another 4-0 scoring rally. This set, too, was destined to be close. Kansas State rattled off five-straight points to take a 20-19 lead heading into the last stretch. Tied at 24-24, Dockery came up with critical back-to-back blocks to steal set two, 26-24, and take the 2-0 lead.
Displaying their control, the Jayhawks worked their way to another early lead to start set three, 9-7, thanks to an ace from Jarmoc and a kill from McClinton. With the last bit of firm footing in place, Kansas simply took off with it.
The middles caught fire with Jarmoc and Soucie combining for six kills on nine swings and no errors in the final frame. McClinton led the way with four kills, putting the Jayhawks out of reach. A service ace from Pelger brought the Wildcats within one, 14-13, but that’s as close as the home would get. Three-straight kills from McClinton, Jarmoc and Soucie propelled them forward further and Albers’ last kill found the Jayhawks suddenly at match point. One last Wildcat attack error handed round one of the 2013 Sunflower Showdown to Kansas.
– Senior libero Brianne Riley’s 14 digs to moved her closer to sixth all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (1,774), chasing former Missouri star Tatum Ailes (1,997; 2004-07).
– Riley now has double-digit digs in 41-consecutive matches.
– Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc’s 1,148 career kills are the second-most among current Big 12 players. She trails fellow senior Kaitlynn Pelger from Kansas State (1,347).
– Jarmoc’s three total blocks pulled her closer to becoming KU’s all-time blocks leader. Her 486 career blocks ranks second only to Amanda Reves (514; 1996-99).