Courtesy of Kansas Athletics
OMAHA, Neb. – For the third time in program history, Kansas is headed to the Sweet Sixteen following a 3-1 victory over No. 20 Creighton on Friday night at D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha. KU won the match by set scores of 25-13, 26-24, 19-25, 25-22.
The victory is the second consecutive win over a ranked opponent for the Jayhawks, who were 0-6 against ranked teams during the regular season. Kansas improves to 18-11 on the year with the victory, which comes over a Creighton team that entered the match with 31 wins, the most by any team in NCAA Division I Volleyball this season.
“Hats off to Creighton, they showed their true grit and character and their staff does an unbelievable job. I’m really happy for our group because I thought we showed some resilience. It’s been a great couple of weeks to be a Jayhawk. ”
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
The opening set was controlled by the Jayhawks, who broke a tie at 2-2 and never trailed again. KU led 7-5 following a service error, but would then use a 9-1 run to take control of the set. Creighton was forced to use both of their timeouts to try and disrupt the momentum, but it was no use as the Jayhawks hit .440 in the set with 12 kills and just one hitting error. Freshman Caroline Bien had five kills on six swings to lead the way, while KU also had five blocks and two service aces in the set, winning it 25-13.
The Jayhawks had to play from behind in the second set after falling behind 10-6 before calling the first timeout of the match. Out of the timeout, KU got a pair of kills from Bien as part of a 4-0 run that tied the set at 10-10 and forced Creighton to call their first timeout. The Bluejays scored three straight to pull ahead 14-11, but the Jayhawks continued to battle back and eventually tied the set again at 18-all after freshman London Davis got a kill on her first swing of the night. The score was even at each point from 18-through-21, but it was KU who pulled ahead for a two-point lead after senior Rachel Langs got a block to make it 23-21. Super-senior Jenny Mosser put down a kill to give the Jayhawks a 24-22 lead and two set points, both of which were fought off by the Bluejays, leading to extra points. Bien was at her best at that point, finishing off the set at 26-24 with a solo block and her 13th kill of the night, giving her team a 2-0 lead.
Creighton would extend the match by taking the third set 25-19. The Bluejays held KU to a .135 hitting percentage, which included 14 kills and nine attack errors. The set featured seven ties and five lead changes, with Creighton using a 6-2 run to build a 17-12 lead. KU got back within one at 18-17 before the Bluejays scored seven of the final nine points to end the set.
In the fourth, neither team could gain more than a two-point advantage until Creighton used a 3-0 run to take a 15-11 lead, which led to a KU timeout. The Jayhawks scored the next six points and used an 8-1 run to lead 19-16. KU would not relinquish the lead and got kills from Bien, Langs and Crawford to close the set at 25-22.
Bien led the Jayhawks with 21 kills, matching a career-high, while Mosser had 16 as the Jayhawks hit .302 for the match with 64 kills and 16 attack errors. KU held Creighton to a .245 attack percentage and finished with 61 digs and 12 blocks for the night. Sophomore Caroline Crawford finished with nine kills and four blocks while Langs had eight kills and six blocks.
Freshman Camryn Turner topped the 50-assist mark for the second time in her career, dishing out 51 assists and posting her seventh straight double-double with 13 assists. Mosser led the Jayhawks with 15 digs and junior Kennedy Farris also reached double figures with 13.
The victory moves KU to 10-3 all-time against Creighton and comes five years and one day after the Bluejays eliminated the Jayhawks from the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Kansas now advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in program history, joining the 2013 and 2015 teams.
Next up for the Jayhawks is a matchup against the winner of a second-round match between No. 3 Pittsburgh and Penn State, which will take place on Saturday, Dec. 4. The Sweet Sixteen matchup will take place on Thursday, Dec. 9, with the location and game time to be announced following the conclusion of the second round.