I know the volleyball coverage around here has been slacking lately, but let’s not let that distract us from the fact that KU Volleyball has just advanced to its first Sweet 16 since the Final Four run of 2015.
In case you don’t remember, only the top 16 teams are seeded in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball tournament. They all host a quad, and the winners advance bracket-style. Creighton was seeded #14, and hosted Ole Miss, Oregon, and Kansas.
KU drew a pretty tough quad, as Oregon and Creighton finished the season ranked #19 and #20 respectively in the the AVCA top-25 rankings prior to the tournament. But after dispatching Oregon 3-0 on Thursday night, KU tore through host Creighton on Friday night, taking a 3-1 decision and advancing to the Sweet 16.
Creighton was playing without one of its top hitters, but KU put out a dominating effort especially early on, taking the first two sets 25-13 and 26-24. Creighton took the 3rd set 25-19 and found themselves up 15-11 in the 4th. But Kansas went on a 13-5 run, and eventually took what turned out to be the deciding frame at 25-22.
Freshman Caroline Bien led the Jayhawks against Creighton with 21 kills, while senior Jenny Mosser added 16. Three Jayhawks contributed with double digit digs in the all-around team effort that saw Creighton become the first seeded team knocked out of the NCAA Tournament.
It’s a bit of a measure of revenge for KU Volleyball fans, as Creighton knocked #5 Kansas out of the NCAA Tournament back in 2016 in Lawrence.
Kansas finished third in the Big 12 this season at 16-11 overall, 8-8 in conference play. Seven of the nine Big 12 teams (Oklahoma State does not sponsor women’s volleyball) were selected for the NCAA Tournament this year.
For now, the Jayhawks await the winner of #3 Pitt and Penn State, who face off on Saturday evening (Dec 4) at 6 PM Jayhawk time. The Nittany Lions are NCAA Women’s Volleyball royalty, but are having a bit of a down year by their standards as they finished 20-10 and ranked #15 in the final AVCA poll; they were not selected as a top-16 seed for the tournament. Meanwhile, Pitt obviously had a great year, as they went 26-3 and finished #3 in the final top-25 poll.
Like the first two rounds, Regionals will played on campus sites as well this year. Those host sites will be announced on December 5. The Sweet 16 match will be played on Thursday, December 9, we just don’t know against who, when, or where yet.