KU Volleyball’s season ends with loss to Wichita State

Ashleigh Lee/KANSAN
Senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree and junior setter Erin McNorton hide their tears as they walk off the court after Saturday’s game against Wichita State in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks lost 3-1 sets to the Shockers.

Juniors Jaime Mathieu and Brianne Riley trudged off the court, heads buried in their jerseys. In the postgame huddle, redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc wrapped her arms around her teammates one final time, overcome with emotion.

As impressive as Kansas volleyball’s season was, it ended abruptly in a 3-1 defeat against Wichita State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, denying Kansas its first trip to the Sweet 16 in school history.

“All of us are so close, and we had such a great season that we don’t want it to end,” Jarmoc said. “Bri even said in the locker room that she wanted to practice on Monday, so it’s just something hard to accept.”

Sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton led the Jayhawks in kills for the second straight match, finishing with 18 kills. Redshirt junior outside hitter Catherine Carmichael added 13 kills, but also committed nine attack errors.

Those two combined for 85 attacks, while the Jayhawks’ middle blockers, Jarmoc and senior Tayler Tolefree, combined for only 17 kills on 46 swings. Coach Ray Bechard said the Jayhawks became too predictable and lacked balance.

“For Tolefree and Jarmoc only to get a total of 46, that’s way below our goal,” Bechard said. “That goes back to we didn’t do one skill well tonight, and that’s the first contact when they were serving and our setter didn’t have enough options.”

Trailing two sets to one in the fourth set, Kansas gained some momentum when a Wichita State attack error brought Kansas to within one point, 20-19. But after a Shocker timeout, senior defensive specialist Morgan Boub served the ball out of bounds.

Kansas couldn’t get any closer, as Wichita State rattled off two more points before McClinton kept Kansas alive with two kills. But the Jayhawks didn’t have enough points left to work with, falling 25-21.

At the end of the previous two sets, Wichita State used an 8-0 run in the second set and a 6-0 run in the third to break those two sets wide open. The third set loss was particularly painful for Kansas. A Carmichael kill brought the Jayhawks level at 18, but four straight Shocker kills and two Kansas errors put Wichita State in control.

“When you can’t seem to side out of a rotation the anxiety tends to build for each point that you don’t get, and the gap gets bigger and bigger,” Jarmoc said. “You’re working so hard, and it’s just not working out, and then you get one point and that’s only a dent in what the hole is.”

Part of the reason Wichita State could put together such large runs is that it controlled the battle at the net. The Shockers established a rhythm in the second set when they committed only two attack errors, while Kansas committed nine. They also ended up with 11 more kills than Kansas for the match on only one more attack.

While the blocking numbers were nearly even, the Shockers’ front row was able to get touches on many Jayhawk attacks. Kansas, however, couldn’t, leaving Riley, Boub and the rest of the Jayhawks’ back line to scramble for digs.

All those factors led to Wichita State siding out at 65 percent, meaning the Jayhawks served at least twice in a row on only 35 percent of its serves.

“They were tracking us really well,” Carmichael said. “They had two blockers almost in front of everybody. Obviously that makes it a lot tougher for us to hit around four hands that are up there.”

Junior setter Erin McNorton had fewer choices on ball distribution because Kansas had trouble stopping the Shockers’ attack, so the Shockers could guess where to commit blockers. As a result, when McNorton tried to find Jarmoc and Tolefree in the middle, they had little success getting the ball to the floor frequently and at and efficient rate.

“They passed the ball to target better than we did,” Bechard said. “That’s the fine line it comes down to in a match like this. Their middles got 31 kills and ours got 17, and we feel like the middles are a strength of our team.”

  • Updated Dec. 3, 2012 at 8:30 am
  • Edited by Ryan McCarthy