After snapping a three-match losing streak that slid them out of first place in the Big 12, Kansas returns home Saturday night in search of its first home victory in more than three weeks.
Kansas, now sitting second in the conference at 7-3, welcomes in Texas Tech. The Jayhawks topped the Red Raiders in three sets back in the middle of October, in what is their lone victory sweep of conference play.
Both teams are in considerably different places now, though. At the time of their first matchup, Kansas sat at 5-0 in the Big 12, fresh off victories over then-No. 23 Baylor and then-No. 5 Texas. Texas Tech was 4-2 and in third place, riding off the momentum of having opened its conference schedule with four-straight wins.
Now, the Jayhawks are trying to recover from their three-match skid, and the Red Raiders just won their first match since that initial surge. But while both teams are inherently flawed at the moment, Kansas has to like its chances Saturday.
The Jayhawks improved and excelled in all areas of play against West Virginia to end their losing streak.
In their first matchup, the Jayhawks dominated defensively. They won the blocking battle at the net 16-6, stifling the Red Raiders’ attack. This led to an all-around control of the match, swinging for just a .225 figure themselves, while holding Texas Tech to just .096.
It may take a better performance than .225 to come out victorious again, but offensive improvement is the name of the game overall right now for Kansas. The losing streak saw a weakened performance defensively, but sloppy play in the attack was what really sunk the Jayhawks across that stretch.
Wednesday’s win over West Virginia not only ended the losing streak, but also put an end to that trend. Kansas swung for a strong .317 clip in the four-set victory, but more importantly, it saw the key pillars of its attack return to form.
Junior hitters Jada Burse and Ashley Smith combined for 39 kills, much-needed production from two of the team’s most talented players. They can’t be expected to turn in performances like this every night, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign that they responded to the attack’s slump with such force.
Senior setter Gabby Simpson also responded well by turning in 42 assists, her career-high in a Kansas uniform. She’s yet to consistently live up to the preseason hype she gathered, and with the uncertainty of freshman setter Camryn Ennis’ status, she’ll need to play like she did against the Mountaineers.
Overall, the Kansas team we saw Wednesday is far more indicative of the team it truly is. And with just six games left in the regular season, it’s imperative they keep that momentum rolling against Texas Tech on Saturday.
The match will start Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m.