Heart, toughness and a "never say die" attitude is what Kansas volleyball showed in its 3-0 loss to No. 4 Texas Saturday. However, unforced errors led to the downfall of Kansas and against a team like Texas, unforced errors can be the difference between a sweep or a major upset.
“[Texas was] pretty physical and that creates a little doubt in hitters minds,” coach Ray Bechard said. “One thing leads to another and then you got a problem.”
The Jayhawks finished the game with 25 total errors; Texas had just six. Part of the discrepancy is the youth, the other part is the elite level Texas plays at.
However, Kansas displayed a well-rounded attack against the Longhorns. Four different Jayhawks finished with at least five kills, with redshirt senior outside hitter Ashley Smith leading the way with 10 kills.
Much like it has in previous losses, Kansas failed to close out. Against Kansas State, the Jayhawks won the first two sets but then lost the next three. Kansas had a 2-1 lead over Texas Tech earlier in the year, then proceeded to lose the final two sets.
“You take a little break in a match like this, you put yourself in a bind,” Bechard said.
And Kansas did just that late in sets.
Through the first two sets against the Longhorns, Kansas had a lead at some point. In the first set, the Jayhawks led 19-18, but then lost the final seven points. In the second set, Kansas was tied 16-16, then lost nine of the final 11 points.
“I thought we played some of our best volleyball in the middle of the first and second set,” Bechard said. “The key to being an elite team is how long can you play at that level.”
Despite being swept, the opportunity to upset a top-five team was there many times for the Jayhawks. The strength of the youth was the leading force behind Kansas. And the team was well-prepared to challenge the Longhorns.
“The prep is, you don’t want to give them points in your mind before you ever play,” Bechard said. “Don’t create doubt in your mind before. We had some Jayhawks experiencing that for the first time and we’ll [get] better because of it.”
Sophomore outside hitter/setter Camryn Ennis, who rarely played early in the season, finished with eight kills. Freshman outside hitter Morgan Christon, who didn’t see action until the fifth game of the season, was not far behind with six kills.
“We’re not going to use this youth or inexperience as an excuse anymore,” Bechard said.
The youth movement has been apparent for the Jayhawks this year and the development the team showed this match instills some positivity in the team for the remainder of the year. The Jayhawks now have a week to prepare for the second half of the season.
“We’ve got eight matches left, so now it’s time to play a consistent level of volleyball over an extensive period of time," Bechard said.
Kansas may have been swept, but it fought until the end against one of the toughest teams in the country. The errors led to the downfall of Kansas, but the Jayhawks refused to let up regardless. Every now and then, the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story and that showed against Texas.