Missouri-KU clash leading to reunion for KU volleyball’s Taylor Alexander

Kansas senior middle blocker Taylor Alexander drills a spike against West Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017 at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Taylor Alexander needed KU just like KU needed Taylor Alexander.

As the Jayhawks took the floor in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament, they had every reason to want to make a statement. Despite winning their first Big 12 title in program history, they were seeded fifth overall. Texas, who the Jayhawks defeated once in the regular season and snatched the title from, was seeded fourth.

Instead, KU looked lackluster. The Jayhawks swept Samford but looked so unconvincing in doing so the opposing coach blasted them with a 100-word postgame rant about how they were “going to get exposed” because of “pretty glaring” issues.

Behind the scenes, those words didn’t sit well with the Jayhawks, but they carried some truth. Although a school with an enrollment of 5,471 couldn’t capitalize on KU’s flaws, a Creighton team playing its best volleyball at the right time did. Things weren’t about to get any easier.

In the postgame press conference, Tayler Soucie, a dynamic middle blocker and part of the winningest four-year senior class in program history, forced a pained smile in an unsuccessful attempt to keep from crying. A KU team with issues in the middle was about to get even thinner.

“Every team has got their warts if you look close enough,” said Kansas volleyball coach Ray Bechard.

Fortunately for the Jayhawks, the player they needed was out there. They just had to find her.

Alexander grew up Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a town most well-known for a crawfish festival. Sometime after building up the courage to try the festival’s “Ring of Fire” ride for the first time, she fixed on volleyball as her calling and chose to attend Ole Miss. Her arrival on campus, however, wasn’t quite was she expected.

Alexander joined the team early, finishing high school a semester ahead of schedule and enrolling at the start of 2014. The preceding December, Ole Miss chose to part ways with coach Joe Getzin, as well as assistants Shannon Wells and Sean Burdette, who were crucial in bringing Alexander aboard.

After two years of being inconsistently featured and a third year in which she was at least able to become a full-time starter, Alexander graduated and decided to transfer. When she contacted schools, she noticed a common theme.

The KU coaches got wind of Alexander’s availability from “another SEC coach.” It wasn’t a malicious effort on the part of a competitor, but rather the coaches she originally committed to trying to help get her name out there.

“They looked out for me,” Alexander said.

They weren’t the only ones.

Melanie Crow, Alexander’s best friend, had followed a fairly similar path, originally committing to Getzin at Ole Miss and then transferring to Missouri when Alexander was a sophomore.

Crow and Alexander share a special bond, but her biggest role during that time was as a prognosis. Alexander observed Crow’s complete change in demeanor upon transferring, remarking that “talking to her was just happiness.”

When Alexander decided she wanted to transfer, her first call was to Crow. Later, when she actually signed her transfer papers, that contact continued.

Alexander sent Crow a text announcing, “Dude, it’s official.”

The response wasn’t one of celebration. Crow called her immediately and laughed.

“Only Taylor Alexander would sign her Kansas papers decked out in Ole Miss gear,” Crow said. “I think she’s still a Nike fan at heart.”