Jayhawks Push No. 7 Huskers, Fall in Four Sets

Box Score

LINCOLN, Neb. – Kansas Volleyball put forth a valiant effort against No. 7-ranked Nebraska in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, falling 3-1 on Friday evening at the Devaney Center.

The Jayhawks dropped the first two sets 25-14 and 25-18, but responded and won the third 25-19. The Huskers prevailed in a back-and-forth fourth set, 26-24 to close out the match and advance to the Sweet 16.

“We gave ourself a chance after getting off to such a slow start, especially offensively. I thought we defended fairly well throughout,” Kansas Coach Ray Bechard said following the match. “There was a group of Jayhawks who were really fighting hard and working together well and I’m really proud of them. A lot of fans will go away from the building tonight with a respect for how this team represented themselves and the university.”

The Jayhawks played even with Nebraska early in the first set before the Cornhuskers used a 5-2 run to take a 13-8 lead, which forced KU to use its first timeout. KU got out of the rotation on a service error, but Nebraska scored three straight points to pull ahead 17-9 as the Jayhawks used their second timeout of the set. KU was limited to two kills in the first set, while committing 10 attack errors as it dropped the set 25-14.

The second set featured 12 ties and four lead changes, with neither team leading by more than one until the Huskers used a 4-0 run to take a 17-13 lead, which was followed by KU’s first timeout. The Jayhawks were much improved offensively in the second set, recording 12 kills and hitting .237, but Nebraska opened too large of an advantage and pulled away to take the set 25-18.

Kansas took its first lead of more than one point early in the third set as the Jayhawks used a 4-0 run to lead 8-5 following a service ace from Caroline Bien. The lead extended to four for the first time at 12-8 following two consecutive kills from Rhian Swanson and one from Anezka Szabo as the Jayhawks forced Nebraska to use a timeout. Nebraska got back within two at 17-15, but the Jayhawks scored the next four on a kill by Rachel Langs, assist block by Langs and Camryn Turner and two kills by Swanson to push the lead to 21-15.

Swanson continued to lead the Jayhawks forward, getting a kill at 23-18, which put KU in position to finish off the set, which it did on a kill from Bien at 25-19. KU’s offense led the way in the third set as the Jayhawks hit .310 with 17 kills and just 4 errors, while holding Nebraska to a .132 attack percentage with 10 kills and five errors. Swanson had six kills in the set for KU, while Bien had four kills and two service aces.

As the match went to the fourth, Nebraska grabbed an early advantage and led 12-9 before KU mounted a rally that eventually tied the set at 14-all after a block by Langs and Turner. Langs followed with a kill on the next point, taking a 15-14 lead, which was followed by a Husker timeout. Nebraska quickly tied the score at 15-all and the teams would trade points and be tied at each point through 24-all. The Jayhawks fought off the first match point with a kill from Bien and Langs, but Nebraska would get two straight kills to close out the set at 26-24 and the match at 3-1.

Swanson led the Jayhawks with 14 kills while Bien added a double-double of 11 kills and 11 digs. Langs added seven kills and a team-high nine blocks in her 127th match as a Jayhawk, which matches Cassie Wait (2013-16) for the most matches played in program history. Turner led the Jayhawks with 36 assists and added eight digs and six blocks, and Kennedy Farris had a team-high 17 digs in the match.

KU’s 11th berth in the NCAA Tournament ends in the second round, which the Jayhawks have now reached eight times, including in each of the past two seasons. The Jayhawks finish the 2022 season with a record of 19-11.