LAWRENCE, Kan. — Going into the month of November, Kansas Jayhawks volleyball was on the outside looking in on the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament.
They were 12-9 overall and 4-6 in Big 12 play.
But a November run where the Jayhawks went 4-2, including clean sweeps over TCU and Kansas State to close the season, propelled them into the tournament.
From there, the Jayhawks upset nationally-ranked Oregon in three sets and beat 14 seed Crieghton in 4 sets in their own gym to head to the Sweet Sixteen.
While the journey ended in the Sweet Sixteen with a loss to Pittsburgh in three sets, the team is led by underclassmen like Big 12 Freshman of the Year and AVCA Midwest Regional Freshman of the Year Caroline Bien, All-Big 12 Rookie Team setter Camryn Turner and All-Midwest Region and Second Team All-Big 12 sophomore middle blocker Caroline Crawford.
Crawford and head coach Ray Bechard after the Pittsburgh said the future is bright for this young team.
“It solidifies some belief in what we’re doing: the training that we got going on each and every day in the gym and the high character student-athletes that we get to work with,” Bechard said.
“These are really good kids that work hard, do the right thing, do it the right way. Great academics and represent our athletic department in the best way and it’s really, really rewarding to work with the group that’s gonna go about their business that way.”
“No one really thought we were gonna be where we are now so I think that shows that we can compete with high-level teams with what we have and we have a lot of good, great athletes coming in so I think that can contribute and add more to that,” Crawford said.
There are only five seniors on the roster. Seniors like All-Midwest Region and Second Team All-Big 12 outside hitter Jenny Mosser are glad to have been a part of a team that advanced the furthest that a Jayhawks squad has gone since the Final Four run in 2015.
“Obviously it’s a bummer,” Mosser said about losing in the Sweet Sixteen.
“No one really had us making it this far, most people had us out in the first round. So just a lot of gratitude for this whole team that we stuck together and made it this far to begin with. Just proud of how we overcame these obstacles and just excited for more.. next year. I won’t be here but I know all the younger kids are really excited. Kind of gives them a taste of what it’s like.”
Crawford, Bien and Turner may be the headliners but underclassmen like freshman outside hitter London Davis and sophomore setter Elise McGhie will be counted on for depth.
Bechard also holds the four-person incoming freshmen class in high regard and looks to see them contribute right away.
While 2021’s journey ends in the Sweet Sixteen, the next few years could see the volleyball Jayhawks go further and further.