Kansas Volleyball

Junior Taylor Soucie spikes a ball over Western Illinois defenders on Friday, Sept. 4.

Tiana Dockery came through on her approach. The words "Match KU" rang out over the PA system. Kansas had just won its sixth straight match and twelfth straight set. 

The current six-straight match streak is tied for seventh best in Kansas volleyball history. The 1998 and 2011 teams also started out the season with six wins in a row. The longest win streak to start out a season is nine in a row.

Two teams, both coach Ray Bechard's teams, from 2000 and 2001 started out the season with nine straight wins before suffering their first loss.

"The goal is to come out and play our best every game," junior libero and Kansas Invitational MVP Cassie Wait said on Saturday. "We talk about how controlling our side of the court is such a big part of the game. When we do that, we give ourselves the best opportunity to come out and win like we did this weekend. It's pretty awesome."

Are they going to lose at all this season? In the words of Wait: "Hopefully not."

In Kansas' first match of the Kansas Invitational, the Jayhawks handedly defeated the Western Illinois Leathernecks in three sets (25-14, 25-16, 25-6).

Sophomore right side hitter Kelsie Payne, and eventual member of the All-Kansas Invitational Tournament Team, hammered out 14 kills to lead both teams. Sophomore setter Ainise Havili registered 34 assists, three kills and seven digs. Wait sprawled all over the court for 14 digs.

"[Her performance] was awesome," senior outside hitter Ashlyn Driskill said after the match. "She's brought so much energy to the team."

Payne's energy continued over into Kansas' second match of the day. The Jayhawks faced off against the Duke Blue Devils, the only team Kansas had faced that received votes in the AVCA poll, collegiate volleyball's version of the AP Top 25. 

Despite Duke being Kansas' most talented opponent, the Jayhawks handled the Blue Devils in three sets (25-17, 25-18, 25-23).

The third set proved to be the most difficult for Kansas, as it couldn't seem to put Duke away.

"The third set was a bit of a struggle, but we found a way to get some things going late against a good team," Bechard said. "I really liked the offensive balance. The kids game planned extremely well."

During the Duke match, Payne recorded 10 kills, the top mark of anyone on either team. Havili totaled 36 assists and Wait tallied 14 digs.

And after a day of rest, Kansas had one more opponent on its radar: UMKC. 

Payne continued her dominance, adding 13 kills to the Kansas offensive unit, as the team won in three sets: 25-17, 25-23, 25-16. The UMKC match was the first game of the tournament where Payne didn't lead in kills, but it wasn't by much. Dockery edged Payne out with 14 kills.

Havili notched her 16th career double-double against the Roos. She recorded 44 assists and 11 digs in the win. 

Next up for Kansas is the Pistol Pete Showdown in Laramie, Wyo., which will take place on Sept. 11-12. And it's not going to be a cakewalk. 

In last week's AVCA poll, both Marquette (5-1) and Wyoming (3-2) received votes. However, Kansas' third opponent in the event, Northern Colorado, has a 2-3 record.