Kansas’ unranked volleyball team defeated No. 4 Texas 3-1 on Wednesday night before a sellout crowd in Horejsi Center, and in the process, took over undisputed possession of first place in the Big 12 Conference five games into the season.
“We beat a good team. We beat a really good team. They’ve set the standard for a lot of years,” KU coach Ray Bechard said after the Jayhawks improved to 12-4 overall and 5-0 in the league. UT dropped to 10-4, 5-1.
“We’re trying to create an opportunity here to be competitive with them. Tonight we did that,” Bechard added after the 25-18, 28-26, 20-25, 25-23 decision.
This Jayhawks team, which has won eight consecutive matches after a 4-4 start, entered with a 5-42 record against the Longhorns, including 4-18 in Lawrence.
Jada Burse, a senior from DeSoto, Texas, and Ashley Smith, a junior from Las Vegas, combined for 22 and 17 kills respectively in helping the Jayhawks snap a two-match losing streak to Texas. KU last won, 3-2, on Oct. 29, 2016, at Horejsi Center.
“I would think there would be a lot of Jayhawks who would be happy about tonight’s results,” Bechard said of past Jayhawks. “I think that group of (Ainise) Havili, (Kelsie) Payne and (Madison) Rigdon (off 2015 Final Four team) were only able to beat them once. But why is that? Because Texas brings a team that goes to the Final Four every year, every time they come to Horejsi. We are trying to create that same type of consistency and same type of of competitive confidence. Tonight was a good step in the right direction,” Bechard added.
Some Jayhawks alumni indeed helped fire up the current team, which received six kills from freshman Rachel Langs and five from senior Gabby Simpson, who also contributed 20 assists. Freshman Camryn Ennis had 30 assists and junior Allie Nelson 15 digs for KU.
“They are very excited. They reached out to us before and let us know how excited they were for the game,” Simpson said of some recent KU grads who helped lead KU’s resurgence in volleyball the past several seasons.
Texas was led by Micaya White and Logan Eggleston who had 16 and 12 kills respectively.
KU currently leads the Big 12 at 5-0, followed by Texas (5-1), Texas Tech (4-2), Baylor (3-3), TCU (3-3), Oklahoma (3-3), Iowa State (2-4), West Virginia (1-4) and Kansas State (0-6).
The Jayhawks travel to third place Texas Tech on Saturday.
“We had four of five at home. Our next four of five are on the road. We’ll see,” Bechard said. “We beat some good teams at home (Texas, TCU, West Virginia, Baylor). We took care of our business at home. Now we might have a little target taking over the Big 12 lead.”
For one night at least, KU could celebrate grabbing sole possession of first.
“One time it (record) said 4-4. Now it’s 12-4. We’re starting to believe in each other a little bit, grow up and are starting to do some good things,” Bechard said.