Kansas Rebounds to Sweep Morgan State, 3-0
TUCSON, Ariz. – Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton connected on 16 kills to propel Kansas past Morgan State in three sets to start day two of the Arizona Invitational inside the McKale Center Saturday afternoon, 25-13, 25-23, 25-18.
Ready to leave the tournament opener in the past, Kansas (1-1) came out hot against Morgan State (0-2), hitting .350 in the opening set and getting a combined 16 kills from McClinton, junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers and redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc.
What started as a convincing first-set win evolved into the Jayhawks facing a scrappy Morgan State squad that took leads over the Jayhawks in both sets two and three. Facing added pressure, Kansas responded with winning plays when needed – highlighted by McClinton.
The All-Big 12 First Team returnee looked sharp in her first start of the season, leading the Jayhawks with six kills in the opening set on a .667 attack percentage. She went on to record 16 kills and just three errors to lead both teams with a .448 hitting efficiency.
Jarmoc finished with 11 kills on 19 swings as she and McClinton were the only Jayhawks in double figures for the match. Albers finished with eight kills, after knocking down six of those in the opening set.
Following a first-set win that saw Kansas tally 20 kills to MSU’s six, the Jayhawks efficiency fell off in the second frame. Attack and service errors hounded the Jayhawks, who hit just .119 in the second. They hung on for the slim, 25-23, win. KU responded in the third and final frame with its best hitting attack of the match, rapping out a .393 hitting percentage.
“The first and third set we were pretty efficient,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We did not play well in the second set, but I don’t think you ever complain about a 3-0 win, but we’ll have to take it to another level tonight against Arizona.”
Where the Jayhawk offense waned at times, the defense came up to make the difference. KU allowed only 27 Morgan State kills in the win – compared to 21 errors. Kansas out-blocked the Bears, 8-3, highlighted by a game-high four blocks from Albers. Senior libero Brianne Riley led the floor with 15 digs, while senior setter Erin McNorton ended the match just two digs shy of a double-double with 39 assists and eight digs.
Aces from freshman defensive specialist Cassie Wait and Jarmoc saw the Jayhawks shoot out to an 11-4 advantage in the first set. Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie checked in for the first time as a Jayhawk and notched her first kill seconds later. A final swing from McClinton sealed the first set win, 25-13.
The second set started with a different feel as Morgan State took its first leads of the match, building as much as a 12-9 advantage until the Jayhawks stepped up their blocking game. Sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery and McNorton rejected a pair of solo blocks to tie the set, 9-9.
Morgan State kept coming, finding ways to take small leads throughout the frame. After falling behind 12-9, KU used kills from Soucie and Jarmoc to spark an 11-3 run. Now armed with a 20-15 lead, KU fought off another late surge from the Bears that saw them narrow the gap, 24-23, before Soucie closed the door. Her last kill handed KU the 2-0 lead with the 25-23 win.
McClinton sparked the third set, crushing three kills to help Kansas out to an early 8-6 edge. All six of her kills in the final frame came in handy as again Morgan State would once again battle its way to a tight set. Leading 13-12, Kansas caught fire for a 5-1 run to extend the lead, 18-13, and force a Morgan State timeout.
The Bears came right back out of the break, churning out a mini 3-0 rally to narrow their deficit, 18-16. Attack errors on the Morgan State side combined with kills from Jarmoc, McClinton and redshirt freshman middle blocker Janae Hall provided the gap needed, 24-17. Albers sealed the win with one last kill, 25-18.
- Saturday’s victory marked head coach Ray Bechard’s 249th victory at Kansas. The 16-year veteran is 249-210 with the Jayhawks and 965-270 in his 28th overall season.
- Senior libero Brianne Riley raised her career dig total to 1,531 on Saturday – just 37 digs shy of cracking the Big 12’s all-time career top-10 list (1,568, Jennifer Saleaumua, Nebraska, 2002-05)
- Freshman Tayler Soucie made her first appearance as a Jayhawk on Saturday, recording four kills on nine swings. Fellow rookie Cassie Wait notched her first career ace.
The Jayhawks will face tournament host Arizona in Saturday’s primetime match at 9 p.m. CT.