- Kansas defeats Baylor 3-2 (25-20, 25-15, 16-25, 22-25, 15-9)
- Kansas finishes the regular season 26-2
- Baylor finishes the regular season 21-11
The Kansas Jayhawks outlasted a tough Baylor squad 3-2 on the road to earn sole possession of the 2016 Big 12 title.
It was the 26th win for Kansas, which lost just two matches all year. The Jayhawks are streaking into the postseason, having added Kelsie Payne back from injury. Payne hit 19 kills and 10 digs against Baylor.
The Jayhawks are still somewhat of an enigma in the NCAA tournament, though. They earn an automatic bid by winning the Big 12, but don’t have a lot of quality wins. Kansas lost 2 of its 3 matches with ranked opponents this year, falling to Purdue and Texas. Their only win over a top-25 program was a 3-2 win over Texas at home in late October. Still, Kansas should be in the hunt for a top-4 seed in tonight’s NCAA Selection Show, which would provide a relatively easier road into the later rounds.
Baylor was led by 22 kills from Katie Staiger while battling back from an 0-2 deficit early. The Bears will be a bubble team for tonight’s tournament selection. They sit at 21-11 with some big wins over likely tournament-invited teams (Kansas State, TCU, Iowa State) but have lost 3 of their last 4.
WACO, Texas – The only place the 2016 Big 12 Conference volleyball championship banner will hang is in Lawrence, Kansas inside Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The fourth-ranked Jayhawks decided that on Saturday afternoon by defeating Baylor in five sets at Ferrell Center to conclude the regular season, 25-20, 25-15, 16-25, 22-25, 15-9.
The season-finale win extends KU’s winning streak to 14 matches while placing the Jayhawks alone atop the Big 12 standings with a 15-1 mark in league play and 26-2 record overall.
“Rock Chalk! I’m proud of this group,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “Now we can close the chapter on a great regular season and get ready for what we hope is a great postseason.”
The win also clinched the Big 12’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Championship for Kansas. The Jayhawks, making their eighth postseason trip and first as an automatic qualifier, may see their highest seeding in tournament history revealed during the Selection Show on Sunday night at 8 p.m. Central on ESPNU. Kansas was a No. 9 overall seed during last season’s Final Four run.
Junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne returned to the lineup for the Jayhawks on Saturday, registering 19 kills and 10 digs after missing the regular-season home finale against Iowa State last week. Payne helped improve Kansas to 8-0 in five-set matches with six kills in the fifth set alone.
Freshman outside hitter Jada Burse finished with 16 kills for the second-straight match, while junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon notched her 10th double-double of the season with 11 kills and 13 digs. Junior All-American setter Ainise Havili also posted a double-double with 53 assists and 13 digs, while guiding Kansas to a .476 hitting percentage in the fifth set.
Seniors Tayler Soucie and Cassie Wait kept KU’s league-leading defense intact with 24 digs from Wait and eight blocks from Soucie.
Baylor’s Katie Staiger proved hard to deny with 22 kills, 14 digs and six blocks. The Bears finish the regular season with a 9-7 Big 12 record to finish in fourth-place in the league at worst, pending Saturday’s complete results.
Kansas began the match with impressive first- and second-set wins, 25-20 and 25-15, respectively. Burse was efficient from the start as she recorded KU’s first points of the day and finished the first set with five kills. Payne returned to her All-American form, registering her first kill of the day to put Kansas up, 12-8, in the first set. The Jayhawks made their way to a 25-20 opening-set victory despite five early service errors.
The Jayhawks held Baylor to a just 17 kills on a -.025 hitting percentage in the first two sets of the match.
Baylor, playing in front of an emotional Senior Day crowd, quickly turned the tide with third- and fourth-set wins. The Bears used a 10-1 run to end the third set and a 7-1 run to end the fourth set to temporarily stave off a Kansas victory.
As the final set began, the Jayhawks left little doubt that they would maintain a perfect (8-0) record in five-set matches this season. In a race to 15 points, the Jayhawks recorded 12 kills on a .476 hitting percentage to finish the regular season, led by six kills from Payne in the fifth set.
“It feels great,” Bechard concluded. “I need to get beyond the fact that we let Baylor back in the match and enjoy what this team has accomplished over a 16-match conference schedule. We are one true champion as a member of the only power-five conference which plays a double round-robin schedule. We had to take everybody’s best shot twice. I’m very proud of our team. Over the last seven matches we have played five five-setters, but remained resilient enough to win.”
Fourth-ranked Kansas entered Saturday afternoon’s regular-season finale against Baylor at the Ferrell Center playing with house money. The Jayhawks already owned at least a tie for the Big 12 Conference title, but a win would give KU the outright league championship.
After Kansas (26-2, 15-1) flexed its muscle in the first two sets, Baylor (21-11, 9-7) made KU earn the outright crown. The Jayhawks used a 6-1 run to erase an early fifth-set deficit en route to their 13th consecutive win and eighth straight against the Bears (25-20, 25-15, 16-25, 22-25, 15-9).
“We didn’t roll over,” Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said. “We kept fighting, kept chipping away. I was discouraged by the number of hitting errors we had early in the match, not playing as cleanly as we can. But (setter) Morgan (Reed) did a good job getting us back into a rhythm offensively.”
Kansas and Baylor entered the match as the two best teams in the conference, respectively, in opponents’ hitting percentage. The Jayhawks proved that in the first two sets, holding the Bears to eight kills against eight errors in the opener and eight kills against nine errors in the second.
Katie Staiger led all players with 22 kills, eclipsing the 20-kill plateau for the 17th time this season and the fourth consecutive match. However, Kansas forced her into six attack errors with only eight kills in the first two sets.
“Kansas makes the lines really tight, and they’re big,” McGuyre said. “Katie has really improved and is playing so much more intelligent whether there’s a big wall or not, moving her shots around. Sometimes, we have to remind her to just hit the snot out of it and blast the ball.”
Staiger turned up her offensive efficiency in the third set, and her teammates followed suit. Baylor hit .355 (13 kills, 2 errors, 31 attempts) in the third set. Neither team led by more than two points until the Bears broke out of a 15-15 tie with a four-point run and 10 of the set’s final 11 points.
The fourth set was another back-and-forth affair until a six-point Baylor run erased a three-point deficit and gave the Bears set point at 24-21. Kansas staved off one set point, but a Staiger kill sent the match to a fifth frame. Camryn Freiberg had three blocks in the six-point run, twice joining with Staiger, who tallied 14 kills against only four errors over the match’s final three games.
However, Kansas recaptured its offensive spark in the fifth, registering kills on 12 of its 15 points in the set. Kelsie Payne had nine kills in the match’s final nine points, including three straight as part of a 4-0 Kansas run midway through the fifth.
Staiger collected 14 digs for her 18th double-double of the season; she also contributed six blocks. Ashley Fritcher had 11 kills and four blocks, while Aniah Philo had nine kills and 14 digs. Freiberg struggled offensively, but she led the Bears with eight blocks and two service aces. Reed had 47 assists and 15 digs, while Jana Brusek posted a team-best 18 digs. Nicole Thomasfinished with six kills and three blocks.
Four Jayhawks reached double figures in kills, led by Payne’s 19; she also had 10 digs. Madison Rigdon also had a double-double with 11 kills and 13 digs.
Kansas, which reached the Final Four last season, ended Texas’ five-year run as Big 12 champions and took a 23-22 edge in the all-time series against Baylor.
The Bears now turn their attention to Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show, which airs at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU. McGuyre said he is confident the Bears will receive their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011.
“It would be a disappointing not to hear our name called,” he said. “I’ve been on committees before, and it’s always a tough process. I’ve been on the other end; if I’m still at Florida State, I don’t want to play Baylor. We’re a team that other teams don’t want to see in the first round. That means we’re competitive and playing hard. We know how to win, and we have some great wins on our résumé.”
WACO, Texas – Baylor volleyball (21-11, 9-7 Big 12) stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to force a deciding set, but ultimately came up short against fourth-ranked Kansas, 25-20, 25-15, 16-25, 22-25, 15-9 Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.
The loss concludes a remarkable regular season, giving the Bears its best Big 12 finish since the 2009 season (.563).
Redshirt junior Katie Staiger led all players with 22 kills and added 14 digs for her 18th double-double of the season. On Senior Day, senior Morgan Reed notched her 10th career double-double, with 47 assists and 15 digs.
Defensively, BU outblocked the Jayhawks (26-2, 15-1 Big 12) by an 11.5-11.0 margin for the team’s 20th match where the Bears outblocked their opponents.
The Bears started out slow to fall behind 15-12 at the first media timeout and could never recover hitting .000 in the opening frame, falling 25-20.
Baylor continued to struggle offensively in the second frame, forcing two early timeouts after a 17-12 Kansas lead. BU hit -.049 to drop the set, 25-15, and entered set three with a 2-0 deficit.
In the third, BU was led by Staiger and Philo, who combined for nine kills to take a 21-16 lead before a Kansas timeout. The Bears used a 6-0 run to win the third set, 25-16.
Baylor kept the momentum in the fourth frame and used back-to-back blocks to tie up the match at 21-21. A Staiger kill sent the match to a fifth set as BU won set four, 25-22.
The Bears got out to a 3-1 lead early, but a .476 Kansas attack made the difference as Baylor dropped the final set, 15-9.
• Katie Staiger finished with 22 kills and 14 digs, ending the regular season with 18 double-double matches.
• Prior to the match, Baylor honored seniors Morgan Reed and Alex Banister as a part of Senior Day.
• Baylor finishes the regular season with a 21-11 season record, the best performance since the 2009 squad (22-9).
• The Bears finished the 2016 Big 12 double round-robin schedule with a 9-7 record (.563), the first time a Baylor team finished with a .500 or better conference performance since 2009 (.550), and just the third time in program history.
• Morgan Reed finished with 47 assists and 15 digs for her 9th season double-double on Senior Day.
• Baylor took Kansas to a fifth set for the first time since Oct. 6, 2012. BU lost 15-11 in the fifth set in Lawrence, Kan.
STAT OF THE DAY
.563 – the Big 12 win percentage by the 2016 squad, notching the best conference performance since the 2009 season.
TOP QUOTE #1
“Morgan Reed did a great job of getting us back into a rhythm offensively. As we got better on offense, we started slowing them down. Katie Staiger’s really improved and is playing much more intelligent. Big wall or not, she moved the shots around.” -head coach Ryan McGuyre
TOP QUOTE #2
“I’m just thankful for all the challenges and heartaches and disappointments in life. I’m thankful to be a Baylor Bear and to be a coach to these ladies. They’re always going to inspire and encourage me. I’ve seen miracles happen, but it’s fun when you get to live and be a part of what’s unique and special. To lose all these starters and be in this position – if this would have happened to us last year, then we would have been devastated, we probably would not have won a match at all. That shows the character and resiliency of these ladies, and it makes the foundation for Baylor volleyball. When these things happen, then we can get better from it.” -McGuyre on wrapping up two regular seasons at Baylor
Saturday’s match closes out the 2016 regular season. Baylor looks for its first postseason berth since 2011 as the 2016 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Selection Show starts Sunday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU.