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Arizona volleyball hands Kansas its first loss in new arena

arizona-volleyball-kansas-invitational-recap-analysis Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas Jayhawks officially opened the new Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena against Morehead State on Thursday night. That was an easy straight-set victory. Things didn’t go as smoothly for the Jayhawks on Friday night as the Arizona Wildcats handed the hosts a 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-23) loss.

The Jayhawks came into the match at 5-2 after winning the first match of the Kansas Invitational. The match was delayed, but the Wildcats were able to rise to the challenge despite having already spent two days on the road. They didn’t have their cleanest match of the young season from their offensive leaders, but they pulled out the victory without too much fuss.

Juniors Paige Whipple and Katie Smoot led Arizona in scoring with 11 kills apiece. Smoot added an assist and five digs, and Whipple threw in three digs of her own.

The two attackers tied for the game-high in kills, but they also tied for the game-high in errors with eight each. Smoot was not terribly efficient, hitting only .148 with seven attack errors and a service error. Whipple struggled on the serve, throwing in four service errors with no aces to go with her three attack errors and one error on receive.

The errors helped the Jayhawks keep the score close in each set. The home team had no one with more than six kills, but the Wildcats handed them 31 points on errors. Zoe Hill, Ashley Smith and Rachel Langs tied for their team’s high with six kills each.

Whipple and Smoot had plenty of help on offense, though. Elizabeth Shelton and Devyn Cross were just shy of double-digit kills with nine and eight respectively. Cross added two blocks, and Shelton threw in a block of her own.

Senior setter Julia Patterson had another double-double with 34 assists and 10 digs. She also had three kills and two service aces. The digs tied freshman libero Kamaile Hiapo for the match high.

The Wildcats maintained the lead almost from start to finish in the first set, but they didn’t pull away from the Jayhawks until over halfway through. At 15-14, Arizona went on a 6-1 run to open up a 21-15 lead.

Kansas fought back, going on a 5-1 run of their own to bring it to 22-20. That’s as close as they would get, though. The Wildcats closed out the opening frame on a 3-1 run for the 25-21 victory.

The second set was even closer. The Jayhawks stayed within a point of the Wildcats until 13-13. The home team took the lead at that point, going up 15-13.

Arizona took over from there, building a 22-16 lead. The Jayhawks were able to chip a couple of points off the lead, but the hole was too deep to climb out of. The Wildcats closed it out on a 12-6 run to go up 2-0.

Once again, Arizona led through the majority of hte final set, but allowed Kansas to make it more exciting at the end than it should have been. After trailing by as many as 4 points late in the set, the Jayhawks tied things up at 23-23. A service error by Camryn Ennis and an attack error by Langs handed the match to the Wildcats.

Arizona goes to 5-2 on the season. They will face Morehead State at 10 a.m. MST on Saturday, then wrap up their time in Lawrence with a 5 p.m. match against Syracuse.