With 10 blocks, Langs helps KU volleyball sweep Miami in Round 1 of NCAA Tournament

photo by: Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via AP

The Kansas team celebrates a kill by Katie Dalton (7) against Miami during the first round of the NCAA women's volleyball tournament on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb.

LINCOLN, Neb. — KU volleyball’s Rachel Langs didn’t ignore the obvious Thursday.

“This could have been my last match,” Langs said.

Could have, but wasn’t, thanks mainly to her 10 blocks – equaling a career best – as Kansas swept Miami 25-17, 25-18, and 25-20 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Langs credited coach Ray Bechard’s scouting report after her coup, but Bechard wasn’t having it.

“Obviously we had a scouting report, but holy cow; 10 blocks. She was in the right place a lot tonight,” Bechard said.

Langs, a senior, also had eight kills and a .438 hitting percentage.

Kansas (19-10) hit .278, with Caroline Bien tallying a match-best 12 kills and a .360 hitting percentage.

The first set was tied 13-13 until a decisive 12-4 run by the Jayhawks. Kennedy Farris’ ace followed by a solo block from Langs gave the Jayhawks a 21-16 lead. Langs closed the set with another block – Kansas’ fifth of the set. That helped hold Miami to a .065 hitting percentage while Kansas hit .333.

Ayah Elnady’s consecutive aces sparked a 5-0 run to open a second set that Kansas led throughout. A 4-0 Miami run cut the Jayhawks’ lead to 19-15, but the Hurricanes could get no closer. Langs’ kill on a slide shot ended the set.

Elnady had three of Kansas’ eight aces.

“We’ll turn her loose sometimes,” Bechard said.

Miami’s 5-2 lead in the third set quickly evaporated as the Jayhawks continued their impressive block. A 3-0 run gave Kansas an 18-14 lead and the Jayhawks led by at least three the rest of the set. Elnady’s ninth kill – this one from the back row – ended the match.

Miami (19-11) hit .113 – its third-lowest percentage of the season – with 21 attack errors. Thirteen of those errors were on Kansas blocks.

“There was a little bit of frustration over there,” Langs said.

The Hurricanes’ top hitter this season, Angela Grieve, had 11 kills and six errors for a .156 hitting percentage.

“We just weren’t in system a lot of the time,” Miami setter Savannah Vach said. “Tonight just wasn’t our night. I know we’re capable of more offensively.”

Kansas setter Camryn Turner had 30 assists, four kills, no errors, and an ace in what she said was the Jayhawks’ best win in an uneven season. Kansas lost two sets in a season-opening eight-match winning streak – a run that included a win at then-No. 22 Utah. The Jayhawks rose to No. 19 nationally before home losses to UNLV and Central Florida. Then came perhaps the most painful setback: the Jayhawks jumped to a 2-0 lead against No. 1 Texas before the Longhorns rallied to win. That was the start of an 8-8 conference run, good enough for fifth in the Big 12. The Jayhawks had lost five of last eight, including a season-ending sweep at the hands of Texas Tech.

“Our last match, there wasn’t much pretty about it,” Bechard said. “We’ve stayed in it, and the indication tonight was that we got a little better.”

Kansas may need to be even better Friday in a second round matchup against host Nebraska, which swept Delaware State 25-15, 25-9, 25-10 in its first-round match on Thursday.

The Cornhuskers (25-5) are the No. 7 overall seed in the tournament and were national runner-up a season ago. Nebraska is 87-0-1 all-time against Kansas; the last match was in the 2015 Final Four held in Omaha.

“Last time we played them in front of about 18,000 people and we got 200 tickets,” Bechard said. “It’ll be a great opportunity for us and I think we’re in a great frame of mind.”


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