As suggested by notkapowski last time, this article can once again be summed up as, "The view was excellent." And, that would be correct, thanks only to the Kansas volleyball players. No comment on the K-State girls.
But what a great day Saturday was to be a Jayhawk! The basketball team is rolling, coming off a victory against Duke. The football team notched a win over a conference foe for the first time in several years, and looked real good doing it, too.
Can the volleyball team continue their push for an NCAA Volleyball Tournament bid by disposing of Kansas State in the nightcap?
I get to Horejsi Center about 6 PM, or 30 minutes before first serve. The place is already PACKED. The pep band is ON FIRE. The crowd is PUMPED. Kansas has won three matches in a row versus K-State: a sweep last year, and a victory in Manhattan earlier this year. Kansas has not won four in a row over the LadyCats in over twenty years. However, Kansas is the better team here, and has been since last year.
Something is wrong. Kansas State has matched or even exceeded KU's energy level. Kansas is just... off. Bad passes, bad serves, and difficulty attacking are plaguing KU. Kansas State is having a hard time taking advantage, however, and KU is only down 14-15 halfway thru. K-State finally strings together a few points, and takes the set, 19-25. A little bit of air comes out of the crowd - this was NOT what we expected.
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KU is still struggling. However, Kansas State just isn't good enough to take advantage. Despite the difficulties passing and attacking, KU never trails by more than a point in this set, and at the end, seems to find a bit of a groove, and wins by a too-close-for-comfort 26-24 tally.
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The crowd gives the girls an enthusiastic standing ovation as they head to the locker room for the ten minute break. It's not that K-State is playing great - they're not. Kansas must be too nervous, too excited, too... something. Hopefully the break will calm them down and they will come out and execute.
Also... that guy in the brown jacket behind the KU Bookstore sign looks familiar...
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Indeed, Kansas comes out of the break guns-a-blazing. Kansas storms out to an 11-6 lead, forcing Kansas State to call a timeout to attempt to curb the momentum that KU is establishing. It's no use, though, as KU thoroughly dominates the LadyCats, taking the set 25-14. That's much more like it... this is what the crowd was expecting to see tonight!
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Kansas State manages to stem the tide for a while in the fourth set, playing KU even to a 14-14 score. K-State has a very scrappy team, with good defense and good blocking. But then the Jayhawks turn it up a notch, and run away from the LadyCats with an 11-4 run, taking the set 25-18, and taking the match 3-1.
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Of course, KU coach Ray Bechard credited the LadyCats with playing at a very high level and matching KU's energy. That's coachspeak. It's just not what I saw. What I saw was KU's depth, talent, and experience overwhelming an inferior, yet scrappy, opponent.
Sara McClinton and Manhattan native Catherine Carmichael led the Jayhawk attack with 14 kills each. Sweet Caroline Jarmoc added 12 more, and freshman phenom Taylor Soucie added 9 kills. Soucie added a team-high 9 blocks as well. Chelsea Albers struggled with her passing in the first set, but got it corrected and contributed 9 kills of her own. Senior Libero Brianne Riley saw her double-digit dig streak come to an end on Saturday. With only seven digs against Kansas State, Riley's streak of consecutive matches with double-digit digs ended at 51.
Up next for the KU Volleyball program is a road tilt against Iowa State. This match will be for second place in the Big 12, and is probably going to be very important in terms of seeding for the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. It also could be a determining factor as to whether or not KU will have the opportunity to host a regional again this year. In my opinion, KU is better than Iowa State (despite the loss to ISU a few weeks ago in Lawrence). If Kansas can play the way they are capable of, they are easily the second best team in this conference. Now they need to go out on the road on Wednesday and prove it.
The schedule softens after that, and as long as the ladies retain their focus, they should be in excellent position to not only make the Tournament again this year, but host a regional. (Remaining games, @ ISU, vs TTech, vs Denver, @ OU.)
See if you can get to one of the remaining matches. If you can't hopefully they'll be hosting a regional, and there's plenty of room in Allen Fieldhouse!