Losers of three straight matches, Kansas University's volleyball players were hungry for a win, and playing host to the Colorado Buffaloes - winless in Big 12 play - seemed like a good way to fill up.
The main dish didn't go down as smoothly as the Jayhawks hoped, but they did whet their appetite with a victory Wednesday at Horejsi Center, defeating the Buffs, 30-23, 30-26, 22-30 and 30-27.
The Jayhawks biggest digestion problems came in the third game, which Colorado won, and carried over into the fourth. KU never led in the third and only led once, 4-3, in the early moments of the fourth before battling back from a 21-15 deficit to win.
Coach Ray Bechard was happy to see his team fight and earn a victory.
"I'm extremely excited because even though we didn't play very clean at times, I thought we fought - a reflection of that is you have 81 digs to your opponent's 54," Bechard said.
Four Jayhawks finished the match with double-digit digs: Melissa Manda (24), Katie Martincich (16), Emily Brown (14) and Karina Garlington (12).
"It seemed like game four was pulling teeth and finally we made a little run," Bechard said.
That run was led by freshman Jenna Kaiser, who recorded four of her match-high 19 kills during a 7-2 Jayhawk rally that finished off the Buffs.
"I love that kid," Bechard said of Kaiser. "I hope she never starts thinking about what she's doing. She plays free of mind and takes heavy swings."
Kaiser even ended the match with a knockout punch in the form of a kill.
But the Jayhawks could have been the first Big 12 team to taste defeat against CU if they hadn't slowed the Buffs' momentum with a win in the tightly contested second game, which had 11 ties and seven lead changes.
"I thought we played at our highest level of the year at the end of game two," Bechard said.
Junior Natalie Uhart was a force at the end of that game, repeatedly teaming with Kaiser to thwart CU.
"You talk about totally dominating a game at the end of game two, the last four or five points," Bechard said of the junior middle blocker who missed almost a month of action earlier in the season due to a congenital heart defect. "If she wasn't hitting it, she was blocking it and that looked like the old Natalie Uhart at her best. She's got to gain some confidence from that."
Uhart, who finished with 14 kills, said once the Buffs took the third game, the Jayhawks didn't want it to go to a fifth.
"We couldn't slip up. We put the pressure on," Uhart said of the fourth and decisive game. "We knew we just had to buckle down and do our jobs."
The KU offense ran smoothly most of the night thanks to Martincich and Brown, who recorded 34 and 26 assists, respectively.
The Jayhawks (10-8, 3-5) have matched their season and Big 12 win totals from last year. They travel to face seventh-ranked Texas on Saturday.