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Hawking Points: Kansas Volleyball season ends at the hands of Penn State

An exhilarating match between the Jayhawks and Nittany Lions went against the home squad.
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In a match that Kansas Jayhawks head coach Ray Bechard said "felt like an Elite Eight or Final Four match", his squad was unable to pull out the tiebreaker set to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Instead, it was the visiting Penn State Nittany Lions that secured the final two points of the match to survive.

Key Plays

Set 1

The Nittany Lions started out hitting well, taking the first two points before Ayah Elnady made her presence known with a huge swing. But Kansas couldn't stay out of their own way, with two service errors. Kansas got up through a combination of great defense and some timely swings, but Penn State slowly started displaying the power in their swings. 

Six straight points for Penn State had Kansas using two timeouts, and Kansas finally responded after the second one. An 8-4 run featured multiple kills from Reagan Cooper, who had an incredible 6 kills on 8 swings in the set. Unfortunately, the momentum ran out as Penn State pushed their way to the finish, taking Set 1 by a score of 25-20.

Set 2

It was another uneven start for Kansas in the second set, as Penn State's defense stifled most of the attacks, and unforced errors let Penn State get out to a 7-4 lead. But a few surprise attacks got the Jayhawks back into the set. For a while it seemed like Kansas might be unable to push past Penn State while keeping it close, but a huge 4-0 scoring sequence turned a two point deficit into a two point lead. The Penn State timeout stopped the immediate run, but Kansas seized momentum.

Another 4-0 run led to another timeout for Penn State, and the Jayhawks looked to be ready to run away with it. Penn State made it interesting, but a service error and a couple huge blocks pushed the lead back up to four.  Kansas finished off the set on a Mykayla Myers kill.

Set 3

The third set started out as the back and forth we were all expecting. Kansas took the lead to start, but couldn't build a lead of more than two for quite a while. Penn State even took a lead after three straight points, but Kansas clawed it right back with a London Davis kill. Another 3-0 Penn State run took it to the media timeout.

Kansas had a few runs to try and get back in it, but they could never quite get it tied. After clawing back to 21-20, a 4-1 finish by Penn State put the third set away.

Set 4

The Jayhawks came out fired up in set 4, falling behind early but using some huge swings to storm back for a 5-3 lead. But Penn State came right back for some more back and forth action. It seemed like we were due for another tight set the entire way until Kansas put together this beauty of a rally:

While Penn State was able to momentarily stop the Kansas run, Kansas powered back a kill and a service ace to get Penn State to call timeout. An attack into the net, a block and an attack error stretched the run to 5-0, and Kansas took that momentum all the way to the end of the set. They finished the set on a 13-2 run.

5th Set

The Jayhawks gave up the first point, but it was just the start of another back and forth, as neither team won a point where they served until a huge London Davis swing broke a 4-4 tie. From there the lead traded back and forth a few more times with Kansas taking an 8-7 lead into the media timeout.

A service error made it tense, but Reagan Cooper got two huge swings to give the lead back to Kansas. A 3-0 Penn State scoring run was broken by Cooper to tie it at 12 again. In the highest pressure point of the season, Kansas misplayed a Penn State serve to drop the final set 15-13.

Eye-Catching Stat Lines

As good as Reagan Cooper was last night, she was even better tonight, with 29 kills on 56 attempts. She also only had 3 errors while recording 2 blocks. The 29 kills ties the Kansas single-match record set by Karina Garlington back in 2008 against Iowa State.

Camryn Turner had 54 assists on the night, with 6 digs and 3 blocks.

Kansas held Penn State to just 11 blocks on the night, well below their season average. 


The season ends earlier than the Jayhawks expected, but the things that they accomplished should set them up for future success. They had a deep freshman class that was able to develop behind the star lineup that led Kansas to the NCAA Tournament. The recruiting class for next season is among the top in the nation. And their second place finish sets them up in a strong position for continued success in the new Big 12.

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