Missouri got a measure of revenge against Kansas in volleyball on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers advanced to Saturday’s regional final, with a 25-23, 15-25, 25-15 20-25, 15-10 win at Koch Arena in Wichita.
Kansas had beaten the Missouri Tigers in straight sets in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
But this time it’s Missouri that is advancing.
As fans streamed into Koch Arena for Wichita State’s NCAA regional match against Radford following the MU-KU match, the support for Kansas’ volleyball team increased.
Many Wichita State fans seemed to turn their support toward the No. 19 Jayhawks in Friday night’s opening match with Missouri, perhaps hoping for a Saturday final between in-state competitors.
Whatever the reason, KU seemed to gain energy as the noise level elevated. KU shook off an unenthusiastic third set to win the fourth, but Missouri rediscovered its oomph in the decisive fifth set.
“We don’t focus on things that going on around us,” Missouri hitter Kira Larson said. “The only thing we’re focused on is everything on the court. We’re not distracted by other things. Yeah, they were getting loud and we could feel it, but I was in that match, and so were all the other girls.”
Saturday’s final is at 7 p.m. and will feature Missouri against Wichita State, which beat Radford in straight sets.
Missouri and Kansas traded set wins — Missouri (21-11) won the odds, Kansas the evens. After a KU rally to win the fourth, the Jayhawks had two errors to start the fifth and Missouri took a 6-1 lead. KU rallied to 10-8 before Missouri scored five of the final seven points
The Jayhawks (22-8) appeared lethargic during a disastrous third set. It was Missouri’s aggressive play that forced KU into a defensiveness that the Tigers seized upon with 18 kills and a .417 hitting percentage.
Dariana Hollingsworth had six kills and Larson had three, which she reached or exceeded in the first four sets.
That followed an uninspiring second set for Missouri, when Missouri had more errors than kills and were hampered by KU’s blockers and superior hitting. Kelsie Payne, whose error ended the first set, had three second-set kills to help KU tie it 1-1.
Kansas failed to match that effectiveness in the third set and was held below 16 points for the third time this season, the first two by Texas and Kansas State. Between the second and third sets, Missouri’s kills increased from six to 18, and its errors dropped from 10 to 3.
Those trends continued to start the fourth set as Missouri scored nine of the first 14 points. KU’s turnaround coincided with apparent added fan support. The Jayhawks scored six straight to take a 10-9 lead then mostly controlled the set from there, holding off Missouri’s rallies.
But it was Missouri that had the final say in this one.
“We knew we had to take the momentum early, and when we didn’t, that’s almost an impossible hole to get out of,” KU senior Anise Havili said.
It was the final game at Kansas for the likes of Havili, Payne and Madison Rigdon.
“Four years goes by fast,” Payne said.