LAWRENCE, Kan. – No. 17 Kansas Volleyball is off to an unprecedented start.
KU’s 3-1 (25-18, 23-25, 25-20, 25-8) win over Gonzaga in the Jayhawk Classic on Friday night at Horejsi Family Athletics Center marked the Jayhawks’ 11th straight win since the season began – the best start in program history.
“To be 11-0 and to beat a good team – a tournament team – to reach that point is special for our players,” Head Coach Ray Bechard said. “You can tell this team loves playing with each other. We’re off to a good start and we have a chance to continue that streak, but we have to get back to working hard each point at a time. We have faced some good teams to-date, but we also realize the season will continue to get more challenging as we go.”
Kansas (11-0) used a balanced offensive attack of three players in double-figure kills, paced by 17 kills from sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne on a .455 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon registered her third double-double of the season with 15 kills and 11 digs, while senior outside hitter Tiana Dockery (Navajo) posted 13 kills. Sophomore setter added another double-double to KU’s effort with 51 assists and 11 digs while quarterbacking an offense that hit .319 as a team.
Gonzaga (7-4) was led by Emmy Allen’s 12 kills.
After a back-and-forth start to the first set, Kansas made its way to a 25-18 win to open the match. With the scored tied at 10, Kansas went on a 7-2 run to separate from the Zags. Consecutive kills from Dockery clinched the opening-set victory for the Jayhawks.
Gonzaga’s second-set equalizer became the first set loss for Kansas at home this season. Both team’s attack percentages during the second set were identical (.244; 15k-5e-41a). Kansas started the second set with a quick ace by Havili, complimented by multiple kills from Dockery and Rigdon, but neither team led by more than one point until Gonzaga took a 16-14 lead. With the Zags in control, Kansas rallied from a five-point deficit late in the set. With junior libero Cassie Waitat the service line, Kansas came within one point of tying the set, 24-23, before Gonzaga finished it with a kill from McKayla Ferris.
“At the break our players knew that we don’t play frantic — we play urgent,” Bechard explained. “They played the end of the second set like their life depended on it. But the first five points are just as important as the last five points. We didn’t lose that second set on that last play we lost it in the middle of the set. We weren’t serving the ball over we weren’t playing like the way we need to play.”
The Jayhawks came out of the break with resolve. In the last two sets alone, Kansas recorded a .400 hitting percentage (31k-5e-65a), while holding Gonzaga to a .074 clip (13k-9e-54a) over that same period.
The third set saw its fair share of adversity before Kansas ran away with a 25-20 decision. The teams teetered to a 17-17 tie before junior Maggie Anderson came off the bench serve during a 3-0 KU run, which gave the Jayhawks the go-ahead lead. Consecutive kills from both Payne and Rigdon closed the set for the Jayhawks.
KU was firing on all cylinders during a dominating 25-8 fourth-set victory. The Jayhawks jumped out to an 8-1 lead, behind two aces from Dockery, and didn’t look back. Kansas wound up attacking at an efficient .480 clip in the second set (14k-2e-25a) to clinch the team’s 11th straight victory.