What a disappointing day to be a KU fan. Not only did the football team lose (albeit, as expected) on the road at TCU, but that team to the east won (their first victory over a top 10 foe on the road since 1981), and that team 80 or so miles to our west hung with Baylor for three and half quarters before finally being put away by the Bears.
The same day all the above happened, the Kansas Women's Volleyball team hosted Texas in a highly anticipated matchup. Texas is ranked #3 in the country. Kansas is outside of the top 25, but receiving votes, and on a ten match winning streak. (They did have a loss a few matches ago, in an exhibition affair vs the Italian U-23 team.) Both teams are in the top 15 in RPI (Texas #1 RPI, Kansas #14). Worth noting, Kansas has not beat Texas in volleyball since 2003, and is 4-33 all time vs the Longhorns. Last year's matchup in Horejsi was a tense five set affair. Kansas volleyball fans have high hopes going into tonight's match.
And no, I don't have season volleyball tickets for the extra Williams Fund priority points. I can't afford basketball tickets anyway!!
I arrived half an hour early. The Horesji Center is filling up quickly. The first thing I notice... no pep band. WTH? The biggest match of the season, and no pep band? Did Kansas Athletics really need that extra $720 in ticket sales? (Figure based on 15 rows times 6 people per row times $8 per ticket.) I seriously plan on emailing the KU Athletic department. The pep band really brings an energy to Horejsi that was definitely missing tonight.
First Set. Texas is tall. Long. Talented. That #3 ranking is definitely deserved. Texas jumps out to an early lead and Kansas never really threatens. Texas takes the first set easily, 25-17.
Second Set. Kansas starts off slow again, with Texas taking an early 3-0 lead. Soon Texas has a 16-9 lead, and it's looking like a short night for Kansas volleyball. At that point, however, Kansas gets into a groove, getting blocks and kills. KU storms back and takes the second set, 26-24.
Halftime is rather dull, since there is no pep band. WHERE IS THE PEP BAND???
Third Set. Texas ain't messing around. The Longhorns are in control of the set at 20-12 when Kansas finally starts to make a run. The Jayhawks cannot complete the comeback, however, and Texas pulls out a 25-20 victory.
Fourth Set. Kansas takes an early 4-2 on the Longhorns, but this seemingly only irritates them. The fourth set really isn't very close at all, and Texas closes out a four set victory with a 25-15 score.
Final Score: Texas 3, Kansas 1.
Last year, the Jayhawks had one of the better seasons in the volleyball program's history, hosting a regional for the NCAA Tournament in Allen Fieldhouse. Look for that to happen again this year. Kansas has a strong opportunity to finish second to Texas in the Big 12. Texas is the only Big 12 team with a top 25 ranking. Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Kansas State are the only other Big 12 teams receiving votes, and Kansas has already defeated OU and KSU handily (KSU on the road).
Tonight's match turned out to be disappointing for the sellout crowd of 1300 (official attendance) that packed into Horejsi. However, good things are in store for the Kansas volleyball program, both this year and hopefully in the future. Kansas has two of the top hitters and blockers in the conference (and in the country) in Caroline Jarmoc and Sara McClinton. Kansas has an excellent Libero/defender in senior (and mikeville's personal favorite) Brianne Riley. And, Kansas has a couple very promising freshman seeing significant playing time this year in hitter/blocker Taylor Soucie and defender (and probably next year's Libero) Cassie Wait.
Also deserving of mention is senior setter Erin McNorton. She isn't getting a lot of publicity, but is a key piece of this Kansas volleyball team. She has quietly become one of the best setters in the conference, taking even the most difficult passes and making the sets looks easy. She also has good court vision, which obviously helps with her sets (in knowing who best to feed the ball to) and even earns herself a kill every once in a while. She definitely makes the offense go for the Jayhawks.
The point is, this volleyball program is definitely worth checking out if you have a chance. (It's much more exciting and much less frustrating than watching the football team, for instance. And I don't say that lightly, as I am a huge KU football fan.) Anyway, look for some volleyball to be played in Allen Fieldhouse again this December, and hopefully they can make a run in the NCAA Volleyball tournament this year.
P.S. Question for the editors... I took a few pictures of the action tonight. I wasn't sure how to upload them into this article, as it seems like you can only upload existing pics from URLs. I would be glad to email them to whoever should you like to insert them for me or whatever. Let me know. Thanks!