Natalie Uhart keeps talking about what it means to seize these moments. As a sixth-year senior down to her last collegiate volleyball season, she tends to appreciate and understand the rarity with which such times occur.
Friday night was one of those occasions for Uhart's Kansas University volleyball squad. At home. Near capacity crowd. No. 13 Oregon in town.
An early-season stage to rise above mediocrity disappeared not long after the match began, however, as the Ducks defeated the Jayhawks, 25-13, 25-21, 25-17.
"Going into this game, I said 'Hey, let's pull down their ranking and let's get us up there,'" Uhart said. "This was a perfect opportunity, and things didn't go well."
The loss came just hours after KU defeated Utah Valley, 25-21, 25-16, 25-20, in its first of three games at the Jayhawk Invitational.
Coach Ray Bechard pinpointed the Jayhawks' struggles to poor first-ball passing and too many hitting errors against Oregon. For the match, Kansas (2-2) had an attack percentage of less than six percent, while committing 25 errors. Oregon, on the other hand, had just 11 attacking errors and a 35 percent attack percentage.
"An uneven performance," Bechard said . "And we would have had to have been really good to extend the match against a team like this."
Kansas didn't take its first lead until early in the second set when Uhart's kill put KU ahead, 2-1. After trading several points, freshman Allison Mayfield smacked a kill giving the Jayhawks an 11-10 advantage.
It was the last lead Kansas had all night.
The Jayhawks then fell behind 10-1 in the third set, rallied to within 14-13 and collapsed at the finish line.
"It's so inconsistent," Uhart said of her team's play. "We'll go on these runs for five or six point, and then we stop for five or six points. It's a rollercoaster, and we need to cut that out."
Sophomore Karina Garlington led KU with 12 kills, following a career-high 15 against Utah Valley. Freshman setter Nicole Tate finished the nightcap with 22 assists.
KU returns to the Horejsi Center against Central Florida at 1 p.m. today in the final contest of the tournament.