Kansas volleyball welcomed Omaha to a sold-out Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena Thursday night. After earning the right to host first and second-round games, the Jayhawks swept the Mavericks 3-0 to advance to the second round of the 2023 NCAA Women’s volleyball championship.
The Jayhawks came out firing in the first set with three thundering kills from junior outside hitter Ayah Elnady. Omaha quickly tied the set after three Kansas errors. Both teams mirrored each other until Kansas started to pull away with a 3-0 scoring run, leading 5-10.
The Mavericks scored one point after the Jayhawk’s scoring run from a service error. After the mistake, Kansas would go on another 3-0 scoring run capped off with a diving save from junior setter Camryn Turner to lead 13-6, forcing an Omaha timeout.
The Jayhawks continued to use this momentum, ultimately winning the first set. After never trailing Omaha, Kansas won the first set 25-16.
With a 1-0 set lead, Kansas trailed quickly to start the second set. The Mavericks got a three-point lead, 6-3 over the Jayhawks. After a kill from graduate outside/opposite Reagan Cooper and an Omaha error, Kansas cut the Omaha lead to just one, 6-5.
The Mavericks took the building momentum from the Jayhawks with a 3-0 scoring run to lead 9-5. Kansas did not let the set get away from them and responded with a 3-0 scoring run after a kill from Cooper and two aces from Turner, but the Jayhawks still trailed 9-8.
Kansas took its first lead, 13-12, of the set off of a kill by junior middle blocker Toyosi Onabanjo. The score would stay close until Kansas got a 20-16 lead after a 3-0 scoring run. The Jayhawks continued to strive through the end of the set. Kansas took set two and extended its lead to 2-0 with a score of 25-19.
Entering set three with a 2-0 lead, Kansas looked to sweep Omaha. The Jayhawks would do just that. The third set started with a quick 4-1 Maverick lead after an error, ace and two kills. The Jayhawks answered the immediate deficit with a 3-0 run capped off by a kill from Turner, tying the game at four.
Kansas was forced to call a timeout after an 8-2 scoring run from the Mavericks. Down 12-6 out of the timeout, Kansas would surrender one Omaha kill but responded with a 5-0 scoring run fueled by a Turner service ace. This run gave the Jayhawks much-needed life and made the score 13-11, forcing a Maverick timeout.
Out of the timeout, both teams went on their own 3-0 scoring run, making the score 16-14 still in Omaha’s favor. After Kansas’ run, Omaha responded with one kill. While facing a three-point deficit, Kansas responded with a massive 5-0 scoring run to take a two-point 19-17 lead.
The rest of the set was packed with head-to-head competitive volleyball, with both teams answering each other. The set was tied at 26 points when Kansas finally pulled away from Omaha after a kill from Cooper and an Omaha error. Ultimately, Kansas took the final set with a score of 28-26 and won the match.
Cooper and Turner led the way for the Jayhawks in the first-round win. Cooper finished with 11 kills, leading the match, and Turner finished with 27 assists and three service aces.
With Thursday night’s win, Kansas advanced to the second round of the 2023 NCAA Women’s volleyball championship after sweeping Omaha. Kansas will look to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in program history as they will host Penn State on Friday at 5:30 p.m.