Texas defeats Kansas in five-set thriller

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Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

Senior Kansas outside hitter Madison Rigdon recorded one of her 20 kills to close out a convincing 25-18 victory in the third set, sending a raucous Lawrence, Kansas, crowd into a frenzy.

The No. 5 Longhorns trailed 2-1 and were on the brink of having their six-game win streak snapped.

But they didn’t fold.

Texas rallied from a set down for the second time this season and upended No. 9 Kansas on the road in a thrilling Big 12 showdown. The win snapped the Jayhawks’ 19-game conference win streak, which began after a loss to Texas last November.

“The coaches were telling us to settle down and focus on our side (of the court) and play our game, and we started doing that,” freshman outside hitter Lexi Sun said.

Sun added a career-high 21 kills along with her .475 hitting percentage. She also added nine digs and seven blocks to complement her all-around performance.

The first set saw a point-for-point battle between the two teams. Although Texas never led, it kept pace with the Jayhawks until the end of the set, where service errors and defensive alignment helped Kansas pull away and claim the first frame, 25-21.

The second set brought more of the same, but Texas’ stout defensive front blocked several potential Kansas kills. A pair of points pushed the Longhorns into the lead late in the set. After exchanging a couple of set points, the Longhorns claimed the second frame to tie the match.

“We just realized that it was all our side (of the court),” Sun said. “We just needed to control our side better.”

The third set saw the Jayhawks dominate from the start, finding holes in several parts of Texas’ defense. Strong blocking from Kansas’ front thwarted the Longhorns’ attacks and took their setting out of rhythm. Kansas cruised to a 2-1 match lead.

Texas opened the floodgates in the fourth frame and left no doubt. A 9-0 scoring run at the beginning of the set ended up being insurmountable for Kansas, and the Longhorns cruised to a 25-10 victory.

“We started to be more aware of where our hitters were going and making better blocking adjustments,” Sun said.

A thrilling final set saw both teams exchange match points until a Kansas attacking error delivered Texas to an 18-16 victory, leaving the burnt orange jumping in jubilation.

“I think staying calm and focusing on what we can do (was crucial),” Sun said. “And it paid off in the end.”

After struggling against top-10 teams earlier in the season, including Florida and then-No.1 Minnesota, Texas earned its first signature road win of the year in thrilling fashion.

The victory gives Texas a marquee win for its tournament resume and builds confidence for the rest of the season. It’s also Texas’ seventh-straight win, which keeps its conference record unblemished at 5-0.

The Longhorns will return home to face their second-straight ranked opponent against No. 20 Iowa State on Saturday. First serve is set for 7:15 p.m. at Gregory Gym.