Brianne Riley is well on her way to setting Kansas University’s all-time volleyball digs record ... in just three seasons.
Riley, KU’s junior libero out of Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill., had a match-high 22 digs in the No. 24-ranked Jayhawks’ five-set victory (25-17, 26-24, 17-25, 23-25, 15-11) over Baylor on Saturday in Horejsi Center. She has 351 digs for the 16-2 Jayhawks, needing 222 in the final 13 regular-season matches and possible postseason contests to pass Melissa Manda, who had 1,457 from 2007-10.
“Whoa is that possible? That’s pretty amazing. It takes four years for somebody to set an assist record in basketball, right?” KU coach Ray Bechard said after the Jayhawks improved to 4-0 for the first time in Big 12 history and won the program’s all-time best 10th straight home match. “She digs whatever is in her area. Brianne brings it every single night.”
Riley, who needs 199 digs to pass Catalina Suarez (549 in 1986) as KU’s single-season digs leader, said the career digs mark is “not something I think about when I’m out there, but it’s something I’m excited about and hopefully I can get there. Obviously I would not be able to do that without my teammates. Their confidence and trust in me helps me play well every night.”
KU raced to a 2-0 lead versus (13-6, 0-4) Baylor, only to see the Bears roar back and tie. But just like matches versus Creighton and Iowa State in which KU squandered 2-0 leads, KU prevailed in the all-important fifth set.
“It’s actually kind of exciting for us because last year it happened to us multiple times and we ended up losing,” Riley said. “It’s a lot different this year. Nobody panics. Nobody freaks out and we finish the game.”
Sara McClinton, Catherine Carmichael and Caroline Jarmoc had 15, 14 and 12 kills respectively. Tayler Tolefree and Tiana Dockery added 11 kills for KU, which lost momentum in the second set after Baylor erased a seven-point deficit before ultimately falling, 24-26. BU rolled in the third set and won the fourth before the Jayhawks regrouped in set five.
“I think they started to read our defense and started hitting around it,” Riley said. “We didn’t adjust as fast as we needed to. In the end, we figured it out which gives us a win and that’s all that matters.”
Of the fifth set, Riley said: “We had a better sense of focus. We got it together and did what we needed to do. We had some better serving going on at the end. It helped us a lot and pulled us through.”
Bechard will take the victory, which comes against a Baylor team that has had to play four ranked teams to open its league schedule.
“We had too many hitting errors, but we did have good balance,” Bechard said. “Then we had everyone contribute in the fifth set. Double-digit kills is critical for us. (Tayler) Tolefree hasn’t been in double digits for us in a while, and (Tiana) Dockery also had double-digits. So if we can keep that going and back off on a few of those hitting errors, it'll help us.”
The Jayhawks will travel to Oklahoma on Wednesday.
“It’s a big deal going 4-0 for the first time in KU history,” Riley said. “Even better because we know we can play stronger. I hope it lets teams know we are ready and coming at them and we are not going to take a back seat this year.”