Volleyball vs. Missouri-3

The team celebrates after a big point in the third game.

It all came down to the fifth set. If the Jayhawks won, they would be Omaha-bound. If they lost? The unprecedented season would come to a screeching halt.

Somehow Kansas found a way, outlasting and upsetting the No. 1 USC Trojans for the first Final Four bid in Kansas volleyball history.

Prior to this year, Kansas had not previously advanced to the Elite Eight. Never before had Kansas defeated a No. 1 ranked team. 

Entering the Elite Eight match, Kansas was 0-10 all-time against No. 1 teams, only managing to win 2 of 30 sets in those matches. 

That changed Friday. 

No. 9 Kansas (30-2) rolled out to a 2-0 set lead over No. 1 USC. But the Trojans weren't going down without a fight. USC (33-3) came out of intermission fired up and squashed late Kansas rallies in the third and fourth sets. In the fifth set, Kansas had a late start, finding themselves in a 0-4 hole. But that didn't stop the Jayhawks. 

Set 1: Kansas wins (25-18)

The USC fans in the Jenny Craig Pavilion were stunned. Dropping a set to a non-conference team? That's unlike the Trojans. 

The Jayhawks got out to a 5-3 lead, in part to attack errors by Samantha Bricio and Alyse Ford, a service error and a bad set by Baylee Johnson. The only offensive point for Kansas in that run was a service ace.

The set went back and forth, last tied at 14-all when sophomore setter Ainise Havili threw down her first kill of the match. Back-to-back errors from USC's Johnson gave Kansas the 16-14 lead. USC couldn't recover and Kansas went streaking, rolling to a 25-18 set victory.

Set 2: Kansas wins (25-21)

USC ran out to a 4-1 lead off of two Bricio kills. USC's lead grew to 6-2 and then 9-5. But Kansas rallied, capitalizing off of two Bricio attack errors and kills from sophomore right side hitter Kelsie Payne, senior outside hitter Tiana Dockery and junior middle blocker Janae Hall. Hall's kill tied the set up at 12-apiece. An attack error from USC's Alicia Ogoms gave Kansas the lead.

Ogoms needed to be seen by athletic training staff, as she was visibly in pain in a violent coughing episode. It was later disclosed that Ogoms had an asthma attack.

Once Kansas gained the lead at 14-13, USC couldn't make a comeback, throwing up attack error after attack error. 

The final nail in the coffin before the intermission was a kill from Payne.

Set 3: USC wins (25-22)

After intermission was when things got sticky. USC lept out to a 9-2 lead. Kills from Brittany Abercrombie, Ford and Bricio paired with service aces helped the Trojans' cause. 

USC went up 12-3 after back-to-back-to-back kills, one from Ford and two from Elise Ruddins. But Kansas fought back, getting the set back within reach at 10-13. Four USC attack errors provided some cushion.

The closest the Jayhawks would get it was 19-all from a kill by Payne. But she committed an attack error on the ensuing point. Then Havili had a rare bad set and just like that, USC was up 21-19. 

A kill from Abercrombie ended set three.

Set 4: USC wins (25-19)

Kansas hadn't dropped a fourth set all season. The Jayhawks were 10-0 in needed fourth frames. Until this one.

The Jayhawks were out to a slow start, falling behind 5-11 and then 7-15. But, again, Kansas rallied. A kill from junior middle blocker Tayler Soucie got the ball rolling. A service ace followed. Then a kill from sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon. Two kills and an ace later, Kansas was only down by three at 15-18.

A few points later, Kansas was down by three again at 16-19, but it wasn't going to be enough.

Two service aces for USC, paired with kills from Bricio, swung the momentum in USC's favor. A Bricio kill ended the set.

Set 5: Kansas wins (15-13)

The set for all sets. Kansas had only played one match to five sets. That was when No. 2 Texas came to Lawrence. 

The fifth set was off to a rocky start. Kansas was in a 0-4 hole. It didn't look good.

The Jayhawks' first point of the match was a kill from Hall. USC went up 1-5 in part to a Kansas service error.

But then, magic happened. 

Back-to-back kills from Payne put Kansas down by two. An attack error from Bricio put Kansas down by one. 

As the set progressed, USC went up 7-10, then 9-13, and Kansas' hopes of making the Final Four looked dashed. 

Kansas was down by four points. USC only needed two to win the match. But insanity overtook Jenny Craig Pavilion. 

Hall threw down a kill. 10-13.

Johnson had a bad set. 11-13.

Bricio faulted on her attack. 12-13.

Junior libero Cassie Wait put up a service ace. 13-13.

Payne hammered out a kill. 14-13.

Rigdon sealed the deal. Kill. 15-13.

Stat breakdown

Payne recorded 18 kills. Hall, Ridgon and Soucie all had 10 kills apiece. Havili had 48 assists. Wait flew all over for 28 digs. Havili recorded 22 digs and senior outside hitter Tiana Dockery compiled 14 digs. Hall led the team in blocks with five.

Up next

No. 9 Kansas faces the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers (30-4) on Thursday, Dec. 17. The time of first serve has yet to be determined.