Kansas Falls to Arkansas in Tournament Title Game, 3-1
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Vying for championship rights, the Kansas volleyball team received career-high performances from outside hitters Sara McClinton and Catherine Carmichael, but fell to the tournament host at the Arkansas Invitational at Barnhill Arena, Saturday night, 25-18, 25-27, 24-26, 21-25.
Meeting for the sixth time in schools' history, Kansas (2-1) came out dominant in the first set and pushed Arkansas (3-0) to set point in both sets two and three, but couldn't capitalize in the final moments. Armed with momentum and a home crowd of over 1,200, the Razorbacks came up with the four-set win.
"Anytime you can get a team down, 2-0, or even 2-1, when you're on the road, obviously that's going to be helpful," head coach Ray Bechard said. "But once they were able to come back in two and three, it became a little too much to overcome. There was some really high-level volleyball, but the disappointment is that we did have opportunities in games two and three. If we don't' learn from that, we're going to be in that situation a bunch in the league that we play in."
McClinton and Carmichael led the way, totaling 30 kills as a duo. McClinton, making her second start of the day, led the Jayhawks with 16 kills to break her previous career-high of 15. Carmichael, who finished with 14 kills, set a new career standard before the end of the third set.
Senior Tayler Tolefree again came with a strong hitting percentage in the final match of the tournament, leading the floor with a .368 average (8-for-19) in addition to her team-high eight blocks. Despite the loss, Kansas hit for a better average, connected on more aces and out-blocked the Razorbacks by a sizable margin, 16-5.
For their consistent blocking and scoring performances over the weekend, both Tolefree and redshirt junior Caroline Jarmoc were named to the All-Tournament team. Junior libero Brianne Riley ended the match with a season-high 26 digs, giving her 66 for the weekend. Her 6.60 digs per set mark earned her Libero of the Tournament honors.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, they also outdid the Razorbacks in service errors, committing 11 to UA's eight.
"We also had four aces to offset those errors, but really it was the timing of those errors more than anything," Bechard said. "Overall our left sides did a nice job as did our middles, but it's the first weekend out. We will be tough to defend. The disappointment lies in that we felt like we outplayed a team that came away with the win."
Both teams came out firing, hitting well over .400 on both sides as the set jumped out to an 8-8 tie. The two teams matched tempos, playing quickly, trading points and never letting the other build a lead greater than two through much of the opening frame.
Midway through the set, KU held a mere 17-16 lead when the Jayhawks received a bit of assistance from a member of the Arkansas band. A ball that appeared to be sailing out of bounds was caught by a member of the band, forcing the point to be replayed. The Jayhawks responded with back-to-back kills from McClinton and Tolefree for the biggest lead of the set, 19-16.
After Arkansas head coach Robert Pulliza called for a timeout, McClinton knocked down two more kills to widen the gap, 21-16, forcing another timeout. Albers found an open spot on UA's side for a well-placed kill to bring the Jayhawks to set point and chipped in again on a block with Jarmoc to take the first set, 25-18.
The momentum provided from ending set one on an 8-2 run carried over into the second set, as Kansas sprinted out to a 6-2 lead. KU's blocking prowess took hold early, coming up with two blocks in the first six points. Behind the front line, the Kansas defensive specialists worked hard all weekend. Facing the SEC foe, the back row was asked to step up all the more. By the end of the second set, Riley had tied her total from the day's previous match (16).
They weren't the only ones getting on the ground as the Jayhawks bound together to keep the ball off the floor. Albers dove into the stands after a point that went Arkansas' way, tying the set, 19-19, out of a Kansas timeout. Playing intense volleyball down the stretch, a long rally saw both teams find ways to get the ball up five times on each side before Arkansas again took the hard-fought point.
Facing the slight 21-20 deficit, Carmichael kicked in gear, connecting on consecutive kills to regain the lead. Junior Marianne Beal chose the right time for her first career ace, putting Kansas at a set-point situation, 24-22, but the home team fought back. Carmichael came through to tie the set, 25-25, but it would be the last time. Kills from Razorback leaders Jasmine Norton and Roslandy Acosta ended the set in Arkansas' favor, 27-25, and set the match to break tied at a set apiece.
Out of the intermission, neither team lost speed as the high-tempo play continued on both sides. Showing off senior leadership, defensive specialist Morgan Boub dove for a pair of digs, passing the ball off to McClinton kills on each. The effort highlighted a 6-0 scoring run with Kansas climbing ahead, 11-6.
Service errors plagued the Jayhawks throughout the night, but a costly one helped the Razorbacks spark a 4-0 run, tying the set at 23-23. The eighth serving error of the evening, however, swung the momentum back in the Razorbacks' direction for good and KU dropped its second-straight extended set, 26-24.
Norton and Acosta powered the Razorback offense that put KU in an early hole. Trailing 9-5, without yet recording a kill, Bechard called for a timeout. The Jayhawks regrouped by way of a kill and a block from Jarmoc, narrowing the gap, 10-7.
Quiet in the first two sets, Jarmoc caught fire when it counted as she and McClinton hammered away at Arkansas' 16-11 lead, chopping it to two points and forcing an Arkansas timeout at 17-15.
Another run for the home team put the match nearly out of reach, 23-16, but not until Kansas responded with a 5-1 scoring streak of its own. The Jayhawks pushed back, bringing the score within three, but the rally ended there. Norton ended the set - and the match - with her 20th kill of the night, 25-21.
Arkansas Invitational All-Tournament Team