One problem all season long for Kansas volleyball has been the youth and inexperience of its team. Out of the 15 players on the roster, 10 of them are listed as either freshmen or sophomores. Where the excess of youth may be great for the years to come, it has not helped the struggling Jayhawks this year, especially during their seven-game losing streak.
Kansas has played multiple talented and powerful teams during this now-broken losing streak, and its youth has not been able to keep up. Kansas is now 5-9 on the season, after grabbing a win last night against West Virginia. During the seven-game losing streak, Kansas played the currently undefeated No. 1 team, the Baylor Bears, and then went on to play the Iowa State Cyclones on the road for its next game, which would be a recipe for disaster for just about any team. The Jayhawks were swept in three sets against both Baylor and Iowa State.
Against Baylor, freshman hitters Rachel Hickman and Morgan Christon had a noticeably tough time against the best team in the country. Both had hitting percentages in the negatives, with Hickman sporting a -.091 percentage with 3 errors, and Christon an even lower -.273 percentage, with 5 errors on the day. Of course, this was against a very dominant team, but those numbers won’t help the Jayhawks win against any team they face off with.
Although the game against Baylor showed the weaknesses a young squad like the Jayhawks can have, there were some points of hope for the years to come for the team’s youth. One key standout point versus Iowa State was the play of Christon, who was coming off the dismal performance against Baylor.
Where key team players, such as senior middle blocker Zoe Hill, struggled throughout, the youth of Kansas showed out to help the team stay competitive. While Christon was the talk of the game with her dominant performance at the net all game long, other young players helped complement her game as well. Sophomore middle blocker Rachel Langs added 5 crucial kills to the game, and redshirt freshman middle blocker Kailea Carrier added another 3 kills to the game, all-in-all totaling 22 kills for the team among the three young players.
While these games against powerhouses like Baylor and Iowa State may have looked bad on the scoresheet, these games can only build experience for Kansas. Playing dominant teams like these will show these young players how to compete against the best, and eventually bring them to be the best.
In their game last night against West Virginia, a couple of players stood out for the Jayhawks. Sophomore outside hitter Camryn Ennis took control of the team, leading the squad with 14 kills, as well as Christon who had 11. Both players exemplified what the team needs to do and what it needs to be moving forward if it want to improve its record. Even in the most crucial moments of the game, especially in the fifth and final set, Ennis and Christon made it their personal goals to be the reason the Jayhawks won, and eventually, they were both key reasons why they prevailed in the end.
While the Jayhawks’ record may not be great, sitting at 5-9, the team is actually benefiting from playing in tough games. While their youth develops throughout the season, with heartbreaking losses against teams like Baylor and Iowa State, as well as a very competitive match against West Virginia that the Jayhawks had to give their all, the team is learning how to battle adversity and compete with the best of the best in the country.
The young talent on the team will continue to develop and grow stronger as they compete night in and night out, even if their record this year may suffer because of it.