When the 2017 University of Kansas volleyball season began, expectations were through the roof. Quite honestly, they should have been. After all, the Jayhawks returned three of the best players in the country. Ainise Havili, Kelsie Payne and Madison Rigdon have won more matches at KU than any other players.
On October 25th, their team was perfectly placed to make another late season run. Kansas was 19-3 overall and 9-1 in Big 12 play.
But since that five-set win against Oklahoma at the Horejsi Center, the Jayhawks haven’t been quite on their game. Rigdon missed several matches with an undisclosed illness. The Hawks were not competitive against Baylor and Texas in back-to-back matches in mid-November. And then – the biggest stunner of all – the Jayhawks couldn’t handle West Virginia on Senior Day.
In the end, Kansas wrapped the regular season at a disappointing 22-7 overall and 11-5 in Big 12 play.
Up next, the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Instead of hosting, KU will have to hit the road and play two matches in Wichita to advance to the Sweet 16.
Maybe, just maybe, the road trip is a good thing. Two years ago, Kansas advanced all the way to the Final Four as an unknown. Last year, the Hawks flamed out in the second round as a favorite.
This time around, Ray Bechard’s team will once again be an underdog. And maybe that’s just what this team needs to make another run to the national semifinals in Kansas City. It won’t be easy, but if any team is equipped to make that kind of a run, it’s this one.