LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior setter Erin McNorton facilitated the Kansas attack with 50 assists for the Jayhawks as they defeated Notre Dame in four sets, 25-22, 19-25, 25-20, 25-16, to claim the Kansas Invitational title, Sunday afternoon inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
McNorton was named the Tournament MVP as Kansas (10-3) knocked off Notre Dame (6-5) in the weekend’s final match. McNorton finished the weekend with 130 assists, and a 13.00 per set average, for a Jayhawk team that hit .364 over the three-match span. After starting their first nine of 10 matches of the 2013 season away from home, the Jayhawks finish the pre-conference tournament season with back-to-back titles and a six-match win streak.
“I think we were so tough on the road and we talked about how resilient we were and had to be,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “But you’ve got to do that at home, too. You have to make people feel that same pressure when you’re at home. There were times that we didn’t, but for the most part I thought we did that pretty consistently all weekend.”
Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc and junior outside hitter Sara McClinton were also named to the All-Tournament Team, after finishing with 15 and 14 kills, respectively, in the weekend finale. The Jayhawks defeated the Fighting Irish behind a strong defensive effort with five players recording at least three blocks and senior libero Brianne Riley finishing with 16 digs.
Notre Dame was led by senior right side/defensive specialist Sammie Brown who finished the match with 18 kills on 38 attempts for a .316 hitting percentage and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Defensively, the Irish were led by senior libero Andrea McHugh, who finished the match with 18 digs, senior setter Maggie Brindock and junior middle blocker/right side Jeni Houser who each added four blocks.
Both teams battled back-and-forth for the first half of the first set, which resulted in a one-point advantage, 15-14, for Notre Dame heading into the TV timeout. The Jayhawks took advantage of the break and delivered the next three points to take the lead, 17-15. KU maintained its lead for the next five points and forced Notre Dame to call its first timeout, 20-17. The break didn’t slow down the Kansas attack and back-to-back points from the Jayhawks extended their lead to five, 22-17 and forced another Notre Dame timeout. A late 3-0 run from the Irish while facing set point would bring them within two, 24-22, but a service error out of a KU timeout would give the Jayhawks the set, 25-22. The Jayhawks were efficient offensively in the first set, hitting .325 as a team. McClinton led the Kansas attack with six kills and a .455 hitting percentage. McNorton finished the set with 15 assists.
The Jayhawks carried that momentum into the start of the second set and used a 5-0 run to take an early 6-2 lead. However, the Irish responded with four straight of their own to tie the set at six. The teams traded points until KU connected on a 4-0 run to take a two-point lead, 14-12. Notre Dame battled back and took three points in a row to take a three point lead, 18-15, and prompt a Kansas timeout. Notre Dame continued to control the set out of the pause and eventually closed out the set, 25-19. Jarmoc led the Kansas offense, finishing the frame with four kills on seven attempts for a .571 hitting percentage.
After losing the first two points of the set, KU battled back with the help of a 3-0 run to take the lead, 7-5. Four-straight points allowed the Jayhawks to build their lead to six, 14-8. Seeing the title in sight late in the set, KU ran out to a 20-16 lead and forced Notre Dame to call a timeout. The Irish responded with two-straight points, but the Jayhawk attack was too much to overcome and KU would close out the set, 25-20, with a block from freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie and junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers. Soucie controlled the set with her play on both sides of the ball, leading the Jayhawks with six kills on nine attempts for a .667 hitting percentage and recording two blocks. The rookie finished the match with 10 kills and no errors for a team-best .588 attack percentage.
The Jayhawks stayed hot to begin the fourth set and took four of the first five points to earn the early advantage, 4-1. The Jayhawks continued their dominance to take a seven-point lead, 12-5, before Notre Dame would stop the action with their first timeout of the set. A pair of 3-0 runs later in the set allowed the Jayhawks to build their lead to as many as nine before eventually closing out the Irish by that same margin, 25-16. Jarmoc led the Jayhawks in the final set, finishing with four kills on six attempts for a .667 hitting percentage and two blocks.
- Senior libero Brianne Riley’s 16 digs to moved her closer to seventh all-time on the Big 12 Conference's career digs list (1,746), nearing former Kansas State star Lauren Mathewson (1,755; 2007-10).
- Riley now has double-digit digs in 39-consecutive matches.
- Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc’s 1,131 career kills are the second-most among current Big 12 players. She trails fellow senior Kaitlynn Pelger from Kansas State (1,326).
- Jarmoc's five blocks pulled her closer to the KU all-time blocks leader. Her 475 career blocks ranks second only to Amanda Reves (514; 1996-99).
Kansas will return to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Wednesday, Sept. 25, for a midweek exhibition with the Italy U-23 National Team. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.