With a record of 8-15 and only three games left in the season, here’s what Kansas will need to address in its final games against Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia.
After its loss to No. 3 Baylor last Wednesday, Texas dropped its 14-game win streak. This loss of momentum could possibly give Kansas a boost in its matchup on Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.
However, Texas is ranked No. 1 for a reason. The Longhorns lead the nation in hitting percentage at .323.
In addition, sophomore middle blocker Brionne Butler individually leads the Big 12 in hitting percentage at .379 and blocks per set at 1.68. Sophomore outside hitter Logan Eggleston leads the conference in service aces per set at .56.
On Oct. 26, the last time the two teams faced off, Texas shut out Kansas 3-0. The game was looking to be a close competition until Kansas collected 25 errors.
Since then, Kansas has averaged 18.4 attack errors per game. If the Jayhawks want to beat Texas, they need to continue dropping that count, especially since they are competing against a dominant offensive team.
Texas has multiple players consistently recording double-digit kills, including Eggleston, senior outside hitter Micaya White and freshman opposite hitter Skylar Fields.
Kansas will need to play strong defense and stay focused throughout the match if it wants to stand a chance. If the Jayhawks start off strong, like they have consistently done, then they could ride the momentum through the match and potentially shock the top-ranked team in the nation.
Kansas fell 3-0 to Iowa State earlier this season, again with a string of errors and sloppy mistakes.
The Cyclones have proven to be strong defensively this season.
Iowa State defends a lot of hits targeted at junior setter Piper Mauck. By serving at the setter, the order of the defense is corrupted, requiring an outside hitter to relieve the setter and set the ball up for a kill. This tactic serves as a disruption and causes just enough commotion for the ball to go out of play.
“I think she’s improved her defense a lot over the year,” Iowa State coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said of Muack in a press conference following the team's 3-1 win over Oklahoma.
In recent games, Sophomore right side Eleanor Holthaus has also made a great jump in her defensive ability. Against Oklahoma, Holthaus put up five blocks, 19 kills and 14 digs. She came back the next game against Texas Tech to put up another 13 kills and 13 digs.
Playing against a stout defense this game, Kansas will need to focus on sharpening its offense. The Jayhawks have shown their ability to maintain momentum while going on high-scoring runs. They need to stay confident and not get flustered when Iowa State puts up a defensive front toward the end of a set.
Kansas will host Iowa State for senior day on Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Following the previous back-and-forth matchup between the Jayhawks and the Mountaineers, in which Kansas won 3-2, the Jayhawks will hit the road for its final match of the season.
Posting an 11-15 record, West Virginia poses to be a competitive opponent for the Jayhawks. Heavily offensive, the Mountaineers are stacked with Big 12-ranked hitters, including junior middle blocker Briana Lynch, who ranks fifth in the conference with a hitting percentage of .315, and senior outside hitter Katelyn Evans, who ranks sixth in kills per set at 3.30.
Kansas' sophomore middle blocker Rachel Langs played an all-around strong game against Kansas State, completing 13 kills, 7 blocks assists and a .556 hitting percentage. Langs said in an interview with Kansas Athletics that the team is hoping to carry its momentum through the end of the season.
“Just playing really as a team and trying everything we can to get those last few wins,” Langs said.
The last time Kansas saw West Virginia, the team handled the pressure and was able to pull through in the fifth set. Despite being down 6-2, the Jayhawks took the Mountaineers 5-4.
Kansas will rely on team chemistry in its last match on Nov. 30 in West Virginia at 1 p.m.