OMAHA, NEB. — Tiana Dockery's eyes welled up with tears. There was no use in holding them back. As she embraced fellow senior Ryan Leary in the locker room, the floodgates opened. Her season — and career as a Kansas volleyball player — was over.
"I feel like the one thing people would think I would say is (that I'm) sad, disappointed, something like that, but I'm a very optimistic positive person," Dockery said. "Thinking about it, we got this far, and we worked so hard for this. It was an amazing journey."
Sophomore right side hitter Kelsie Payne dominated at the net with 22 kills and a .576 hitting percentage, but the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers were too much for the No. 9 Jayhawks, as they fell in four sets (20-25, 21-25, 25-20, 16-25).
In the first two sets, the Jayhawks appeared dazed and confused, dropping the first two frames for the first time since playing at Texas.
"We weren't good enough tonight in a couple phases of the game," Kansas coach Ray Bechard said. "Our serving has been up and down all year, and our passing has been pretty solid, and those two things put us in a bit of a hole in the first two sets."
Kansas recorded seven service errors in the first two sets, as well as three receiving errors and 13 attack errors.
One of the biggest momentum shifts in the first set came when a Nebraska player flew near the scorer's table for the third touch. The ball inched over the net and the Huskers won the point. The result: the score was 19-17 instead of 18-18.
"That little bit of a difference had us on edge," junior libero Cassie Wait said.
But after intermission, the Jayhawks came out like a different team, jetting out to a 3-1 lead. Throughout the majority of the third set Kansas held the lead.
"I think that was the set we played our most consistent volleyball," senior defensive specialist Anna Church said. "We came out with a fire because that's who we are. We worked hard because that's who we are. That was a great set for us. Unfortunately the other ones weren't as great, but that was where we played KU volleyball and the world got to see Kansas volleyball."
Kansas remained alive in the fourth set, as the Jayhawks held the Huskers to a tied set at 8 apiece early on, but after that, it was all Nebraska. Nebraska capped off its semifinal victory with eight straight points to end the match.
"This sucks," Havili said. "Everybody hates this feeling."
The three matches Kansas lost over the season came to the two teams facing off for the national championship, as Texas and Nebraska advanced to the season finale.
Kansas' season may be over, but two of its players still have awards to accept. On Monday, Havili and Payne were tabbed to the AVCA First-Team All-America list, becoming the first athletes in Kansas history to earn the honor. The two women will accept their awards this weekend at a banquet in Omaha.