KU volleyball holds off UCF, stays in driver’s seat for NCAA Tournament
photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World
Kansas won a challenge on what appeared to be the decisive point in the fourth set, then used a Toyosi Onabanjo solo block and Ayah Elnady kill to close out UCF in extra points, 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 28-26) at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena.
The Jayhawks’ Senior Day win caps off a five-match winning streak to close the regular season, putting them at 23-5 (14-4 Big 12 Conference) and ensures that KU remains in prime position to host NCAA Tournament action at the end of the week, given that it entered its final matches ranked No. 15 in the nation.
Elnady led the Jayhawks with 24 kills and graduate transfer Reagan Cooper followed her closely with 20 more. Mykayla Myers, Kennedy Farris, Molly Schultz, Kim Whetstone and Kaiti Parks, as well as senior manager Emily Jones, were the remaining seniors honored for the final home match of the season.
Setter Camryn Turner had a double-double with 52 assists and 14 digs.
UCF, which finished the season at 17-12 (8-10 Big 12) featured a well-balanced attack led by Emily Wilson (18 kills), Lauren Clark (17), Britt Carlson (12 in three sets) and Abby Schomers (56 assists).
The Knights went up 12-9 in the fourth set on a Carlson kill but relinquished their lead on a pair of attack errors and traded blows with KU for the rest of the game. The Jayhawks pulled ahead to match point at 24-22 on their home floor on an Elnady kill but allowed UCF to score four of the next five points, only to claim the 28-26 victory.
That was the most closely contested of the four sets, but UCF actually led as late as 16-14 in the first before allowing a 6-0 run, and suffered an even more dramatic downturn in the third when it went up 20-17 on a Dillon kill but saw KU storm back to tie the game at 22-22 before closing it out on three straight Elnady kills.
The second game was the only one the Knights successfully closed out, keeping the Jayhawks at arm’s length by a three-point margin down the stretch.
KU coach Ray Bechard called the back-and-forth match “like sitting in a dentist chair for two hours,” per a press release.
The NCAA Tournament selection show is at 5 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. KU will look to participate in its third straight tournament.