KU volleyball claims pair of league victories over Houston
photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World photo
In two battles Friday and Saturday, the No. 19 Kansas volleyball team took a big step forward in Big 12 Conference play by twice defeating its 20th-ranked counterparts from Houston, 3-2 and 3-0, in Lawrence.
The Jayhawks improved to 12-2 on the season (3-1 Big 12) and will head back out on the road next weekend for a pair of even bigger tests at Texas.
With their backs against the wall, the Jayhawks embarked on an 8-2 run to clinch the fourth set and even the score at 2-2, then used four kills from Ayah Elnady in the fifth frame to claim the win (20-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21, 15-11).
Reagan Cooper paced KU with a game-high 20 kills on the night, followed by Elnady (17, plus 15 digs) and Toyosi Onabanjo (14 kills). Onabanjo also led the Jayhawks with five blocks and a pair of aces. The team hit .304 on the whole.
“I just think through the fourth set and fifth set, offensively, we got better,” KU coach Ray Bechard said in a release. “We hit for a really good number against a great team. That’s what Big 12 Volleyball should look like. That’s what a Top 20 matchup should look like. It’s two teams really getting after it, and credit to Houston because they brought out the best in us today.”
The Cougars had KU on the ropes after they claimed three of the final points in what had been a back-and-forth third set up until 22-22, thanks to a Cooper attack error and kills by Kate Georgiades and Nena Mbonu.
“We had to keep coming together as a team, take a deep breath and talk about strategy more than focusing on the emotional side of it,” Cooper said in the release. “We know Houston is a tough team and we knew it was going to be big fight tonight. We just tried to emphasize slowing the game down for us and just strategizing.”
The first game saw Houston jump ahead by as many as four points early before KU narrowed the deficit to 13-12. However, the Cougars used a kill from Kenna Sauer to take back control and then, with Sauer serving, scored six additional points in a row thanks to three KU attack errors and held on for the victory.
In the second set, the Jayhawks held a three-point advantage down the stretch but lost it thanks to an ace and a kill by Sauer, only for the KU offense to come alive and close out a 25-22 result on a kill by Cooper.
Katie Corelli led Houston with 14 kills. Camryn Turner had 57 assists for the Jayhawks.
Cooper led the way again with 15 kills, this time on .600 hitting, and while the Cougars kept it close in each set they ultimately fell to the Jayhawks in a sweep (25-22, 25-21, 25-21).
KU trailed 6-1 and 9-4 early in the first set before tying the game with a 7-2 run. The Jayhawks didn’t lead until they went up 21-20 on a Cooper kill, and ended up closing out the set on a block by London Davis and Mykayla Myers.
Houston built a lead in the second frame, and KU had to rally again from a four-point deficit late in the set. Attacks by Cooper and Elnady fueled a 9-3 run, and Turner came through with a clutch block late to prevent the Cougars from regaining control.
The third set, contrastingly, saw the Jayhawks jump ahead and keep Houston at arm’s length all the way through before a service error from Abbie Jackson sealed the result at 25-21.
KU outhit Houston .279 to .146 in the match.