PITTSBURGH – The Kansas Volleyball’s team memorable run through the NCAA Tournament ended Thursday afternoon in the Sweet 16 as the Jayhawks fell to the third-seeded Pitt Panthers 25-19, 25-21 and 25-18 at Fitzgerald Field House.
The Jayhawks close out the 2021 season with an 18-12 mark, while Pitt improved to 29-3 on the season and will face No. 6 Purdue in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
“We jumped on them pretty good in the first set, but you didn’t see a lot of panic or anxiety on their side,” Coach Ray Bechard said of the Panthers. “They served extremely well. Though we attacked well, we couldn’t slow them enough.”
Kansas jumped out to an early 8-3 lead over Pitt in the fist set to take the lead and built an 11-7 lead when Molly Schultz earned a kill. But the Panthers went on a 10-0 run to take a 17-11 lead and led by at least five points the rest of the way, eventually wrapping up a set win, 25-19.
The second set was close throughout. Leading 13-12 midway through the set, Pitt took control and led 19-14 and 22-16. Kansas responded with a 4-0 run to cut it to 22-20 and then 23-21. But Pitt won the final two points of the set to earn a 25-21 win.
The Panthers never trailed in the third and final set, jumping out to an early lead. The Jayhawks tied the score briefly at seven off a kill from Caroline Bien, but the Panthers went on a 3-0 run after that and led the rest of the way to put away the match.
The third set closed the match and ended the season for the Jayhawks, who will look to carry this momentum into the 2022 season with several key players returning.
“This group showed this is a program who can compete with any team in the country, and we’ll continue to do that in the future,” Bechard said. “I think (the postseason run) solidified some belief in what we’re doing. The training we have going on each and every day in the gym and the high-character student-athletes we get to work with. They represent our athletic department in the best way. It’s really rewarding to work with a group that goes about their business that way.”
Sophomore Caroline Crawford led the squad with eight kills as Bien, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, added seven kills. Freshman Camryn Turner led the Jayhawks with 19 assists, while junior Kennedy Farris led the team with five digs.
Super-senior Jenny Mosser, who played her final game with the Jayhawks, also had seven kills and added four digs and two blocks.
“The biggest thing I have for the program is gratitude,” Mosser said. “No one had us making it this far. Most people had us out the first round. I have gratitude to the whole team that we made it this far and stuck together. I’m proud of how we overcame the obstacles in our way. This gives our returning players a taste of what it’s like.”