Following hurricane, Jayhawks welcome UNC Greensboro volleyball for competition, fun

photo by: Courtesy Photo from KU Athletics

The UNC Greensboro volleyball team poses for a photo with the Jayhawks prior to the match Saturday evening. Kansas swept UNC Greensboro in back-to-back matches to improve to 6-4.

Though the scoreboard might have told a different story, the UNC Greensboro volleyball program kept cheering as the Spartans kept a close third set Saturday night. It signaled the end of a two-game series that wasn’t even supposed to happen.

The University of Kansas volleyball team was set to travel to North Carolina this weekend for its “Tussle on the Triad” against host schools Elon, North Carolina and High Point. But because of Hurricane Florence hampering the East Coast, the trip was canceled, with a slight change of plans.

One by one, college campuses across the state were closing for safety concerns, and students needed to leave by Thursday. Last Tuesday, however, the decision was made mutually between UNC Greensboro and Kansas to play a two-game series in Lawrence on Friday and Saturday.

So the very next day, the Spartans dropped everything and hopped on a flight to spend the next five days in Lawrence. With the help of the Jayhawk community, the Spartans called Lawrence home in a fun-filled volleyball matchup that found a positive spin on a natural disaster.

“I think there are periodic things that might happen when your livelihood is sports that remind you how fortunate we are, how blessed we are to do the things that we do,” UNC Greensboro coach Corey Carlin said after his team’s 3-0 loss to Kansas on Saturday. “There are things more important than sports.”

Only one member of the Spartans’ roster hails from the North Carolina area, redshirt-junior Rebecca Rice from the coastal city of Raleigh. Other East Coast natives that live within the boundaries of the now-tropical storm are redshirt sophomore Megan Moran, from Smithsburg, Md., and Maria Esch, from Williamsburg, Va.

Because no flights would get the Spartans out of Raleigh for a traditional weekend match, Kansas allowed its opponent to practice Thursday in Horejsi Family Athletic Center. The Jayhawks even catered a team dinner for both programs in the Donor Atrium of Allen Fieldhouse after the match Friday afternoon.

UNC Greensboro, which doesn’t have a football program, then got to attend the football game between Rutgers and Kansas on Saturday. Kansas coach Ray Bechard even suggested that they come back for another game, perhaps a lucky charm in the Jayhawks’ 55-14 win.

“Before tonight, they gave us a nice card and a little gift, just appreciating all we’ve done for them,” Bechard said. “Our community reached out just to make their stay as eventful and positive as we could.”

By the start of the Spartans’ match Saturday, Florence — the 400-mile wide storm — was starting to make its way out of Greensboro, with Wilmington the epicenter of the storm since it first made landfall.

Greensboro’s campus, which had been closed since Wednesday night, was still closed Monday. The university will resume classes Tuesday, according to announcements made on its website and Twitter page.

“Certainly, it goes back to what Jayhawks do. They do the right thing, and I thought that was the case this weekend,” Bechard said. “How cool of an experience. We got better, too, so it was a win-win situation.”


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