Kansas University’s volleyball team is tired of using the word “frustrated.”
Players and coaches used the word grudgingly Wednesday night, but there isn’t another way to describe the emotions after another close loss.
Kansas lost to Missouri at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center in four sets, 26-24, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19. It’s evident just by looking at the first three sets that the match was competitive.
“It always hurts worse when you’re that close,” junior Tayler Tolefree said. “Where can you find two points in 25 or 26?”
That has become the story of the Jayhawks’ season. When they find themselves in positions to win, an error or a good play by the opposition puts the Jayhawks on the losing end.
Coach Ray Bechard is still searching for the reasons this keeps happening. The team practices hard and goes through all the situations it experiences in games. But the Jayhawks (13-11) have a 1-10 conference record, and Wednesday was a good chance for victory against a Tiger team that is now 5-6 in the conference.
“Yeah, there was good volleyball tonight, there was good effort,” Bechard said. “But once again, that’s the expectation.”
He said that his team should have been amped up for the game because it was Mizzou, because it was November and because the team was trying to stay afloat after a great start to the season.
The first three sets were all decided by two points. After the Jayhawks broke through and won the third set, they should have had the momentum. But the Tigers rallied.
“The momentum only stays if you keep making plays,” Tolefree said.
The Jayhawks didn’t. Mizzou started the set with an 8-2 lead, and every rally by Kansas fell short.
“Every pass they had was perfect,” sophomore Jaime Mathieu said of Mizzou’s fourth-set run.
Statistically, Kansas was evenly matched with Mizzou. But the Jayhawks’ recent woes cannot be evaluated through a stat sheet. In the second set, Mathieu dove into the wall to save the ball from going out, and her teammates kept it alive. What was an inspiring play by the Jayhawks turned into a point by the Tigers.
“It’s tough when you don’t see results,” Bechard said. “And that’s what we’re dealing with.”
It’s hard for Kansas to take away good things from the game even though it looked like one of its best of the season. At this point, Tolefree said, she would rather have a real victory instead of a moral one.
“The NCAA doesn’t necessarily look at moral victories,” she said. “You learn from them, and sometime down the road you can look back and see what the value was.”
There isn’t much the team isn’t doing to prepare, Bechard said. Right now, the challenge is cutting out the errors that go three feet out of bounds or into the net at critical moments.
“We can’t really focus on that now,” Mathieu said of the loss. “We have another game coming up, and you try to forget about this. Next play you try to win.”