Women’s volleyball loses to Wichita State
By Dylan Gehlbach
It was an all-Kansas affair in Allen Fieldhouse last night. The eleventh overall ranked Kansas Jayhawks and the Wichita State Shockers met for second round play in the 2012 NCAA Volleyball Championship, their first postseason meeting. The two Kansas schools played in front of nearly 4,500 fans, the largest crowd in any match of the 2012 tournament thus far. The teams met with a trip to Austin to compete in a regional semifinal on the line.
The Shockers got to the second round by upsetting Arkansas in a five set thriller, coming back from a two-set deficit. Kansas won their first round match against Cleveland State. After a hiccup in the first set, the Jayhawks won handily in four.
But the Shockers weren’t done shocking yet. Despite winning a tight first set, the Jayhawks ended up losing the match in four: 23-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-21.
If there’s one thing that I will say about the first set: it sure was fun to watch. The set was tight all the way through. The two teams continued to swap leads until the score reached 23-22 Wichita State, at which point Kansas Head Coach Ray Bechard called a timeout to fire up his troops. The Jayhawks came out of that timeout and stole the last three points of the set despite an impressive 7-kill performance in the set from Ashley Andrade. It would prove to be the only time the Jayhawks were able to come out of a timeout strongly for the rest of the match.
Wichita State had twice as many errors than Kansas in the first set. Coach Lamb was aware of this and got his team to play to more fundamentally through the rest of the match. “When we started playing volleyball, things started going our way,” said Lamb.
The Jayhawks kept the Shockers within reach early in the second set. Kansas trailed 14-10 before the Shockers opened up an 8-0 run to carry the score to 22-10. The Jayhawks promptly followed with a 5-0 run of their own, but any hopes of making the set competitive were silenced by Andrade’s 11th kill to end Kansas’ run. Andrade picked up her 12th kill on set point three points later. She ended the night tied with Kansas’ SaraMcClinton at 18 kills.
With the match knotted at one set apiece, neither team was ready to concede anything at the onset of the third set. It seemed as though the two teams traded two points for two points all the way through the set before Bechard called a timeout at 18-18. Bechard’s team did not come out strong after the timeout and dropped the next six points, giving the Shockers the opportunity to take a lead of two sets to one.
In the early goings of the fourth set, the Phog was rocking. The atmosphere was reminiscent of a men’s basketball game. Kansas fell behind 4-6, but as they rallied off two points to tie the game at six the Phog was at its loudest volume of the night. This did not faze the Shockers, who now have a 20-4 record when not playing in their home arena. Wichita state fired off two 3-0 runs to build up a 17-11 lead. But Kansas wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. They won eight out of the next ten points to get within a point of the Shockers at 20-19. At this point, Wichita State Head Coach Chris Lamb called a timeout. With all of the momentum in the Jayhawks’ favor, KU’s Morgan Boub served the ball into the net, and that was all that Wichita State needed to close out the match. Senior Outside Hitter Emily Adney had three of the last four kills in the match to close it out. They won five of the last seven points to win the match and set up another, larger David-and-Goliath match with powerhouse #6 seed USC this Friday in Austin.
“It’s disappointing when you don’t play at your best when you need to,” said Kansas Head Coach Ray Bechard after the game. “But your opponent has a lot to do with that.”
Although the Kansas team has a wealth of young talent that will help this program grow further, it also has its seniors. For Senior Middle Blocker Tayler Tolefree, it was hard to describe. Tolefree grew up in Lawrence, and to play in front of a Lawrence crowd that cheered her on in her last match was at least some comfort to her. “I hope that everyone here can appreciate the work that we put in,” she said.
Both teams had about the same numbers of swings on each side, the difference in the game was not the hitter but the setter. Bechard addressed that difference before he was even asked to do so. He said the key to the Shockers’ success was simple, “They passed the ball to their setter better than we did.”
“She was just magical this weekend,” Coach Lamb agreed about Junior Setter Chelsey Feekin. She set the Wichita State record for assists in an NCAA tournament with 102 in just two matches. In the Kansas match, she ended up with 48 assists and 10 digs to give her four double-doubles in a row with 18 on the season. “I can’t wait to go give her another hug.”
Although Wichita State has already done significant damage in this tournament, they are not done shocking volleyball fans yet.
“I will go on record to say that I’ve beaten the Trojans before. It’s happened,” said Lamb referring to the next round of the tournament.
“These guys love to play the strangers,” Lamb said of his team. ““The Trojans are going to show up. We’re going to show up. I have no problem with saying we’re playing with the house’s money.”