Jayhawks jolt Buffs
If Saturday night marked the end of the 2002 Kansas University volleyball season, it certainly was an unforgettable finish.
KU defeated Colorado 3-1 (22-30, 30-17, 30-22, 35-33) on Saturday at Horejsi Center to finish out the regular season. With a 19-10 overall record and a 10-10 Big 12 mark, the Jayhawks are planted firmly on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament berth.
They’ll find out tonight whether they’re in or out.
“I knew they were dead if they didn’t win,” KU coach Ray Bechard said.
“We’ve got sixth place all by ourself. Since the Big 12 started, they’ve taken six teams every time. If history repeats itself, we’re in pretty good shape.”
A loss on Saturday would have dropped KU into a tie for seventh place in the Big 12, and a 9-11 mark would’ve certainly made the selection committee turn their heads.
But an epic fourth game – and clutch serving – proved to be Colorado’s back-breaker. With the score knotted 32-32 in the fourth game, KU was set to have its top two servers – senior Jennifer Kraft and freshman Andi Rozum – in line to finish off the Buffalos. Kraft’s ace put the Jayhawks up 33-32, and later on a Rozum ace – one that rubbed against the back line – gave Kansas the two-point lead necessary to take the match.
“They served back-to-back, and obviously at the most important time,” Bechard said. “There’s a freshman back there throwing up that jump serve with the match, and maybe the entire season, on the line. She’s so courageous.”
It marked a thrilling ending to the final home match for four seniors. Kraft finished the night with 10 digs and four service aces, while fellow senior Molly Scavuzzo had a match-high 18 kills and a tremendous .708 hitting percentage. Jamie Morningstar and Kylie Thomas also bid farewell to Horejsi.
“I was feeling it,” Scavuzzo said. “I think the whole team was feeling it. Everyone was just doing what we needed to do to get the outcome we wanted.”
After the first game, though, things were looking bleak for Kansas.
Colorado (15-15, 9-11) controlled the tempo early on, taking it to a sluggish Jayhawk squad. A 7-0 run early proved key, and KU all but handed Colorado an early 1-0 lead.
“I think we were thinking they were just going to give it to us,” Kraft said. “After that we realized that we’ve got to pick our side of the court up.”
Added Bechard: “I asked them after game one, ‘Who all made an error?’ and they all raised their hand. I said ‘OK, we can let it go.'”
KU came out strong in game two, taking a 10-2 lead behind three Scavuzzo kills. The senior had six of her 18 kills in game two, never giving the Buffalos a chance to rally.
A game three victory for KU set up the drama that came in what would be the decisive fourth game.
“Colorado had to win to be above .500 and have a chance,” Bechard said. “They played game four like that.”
The Buffalos jumped to an 18-12 lead in game four, but Kansas rallied to tie it at 20-20, before the intense battle began.
Four times, Colorado needed just one point to force a game five, and four times, Kansas denied the opportunity. A Lindsey Morris kill and the two service aces gave three of the last four points – and the critical conference victory – to the Jayhawks.
Now KU waits. The team will gather to watch the selection show together, which ESPNews will air starting at 8 p.m. tonight.
Bechard said he liked the chances of seeing his seniors live to play another match.
“They’re our first true recruiting class,” Bechard said. “We’ll miss them, but hopefully we’ll have some more volleyball to play.”