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KU Jayhawks volleyball posts first-round NCAA Tournament upset over ranked foe

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The Kansas volleyball team was dominant in its NCAA Tournament opener Thursday, sweeping 19th-ranked Oregon, 25-21, 25-21, 25-22 at D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

It was KU’s first NCAA win since 2016 when the team defeated Samford.

“Just really proud,” KU coach Ray Bechard said. “I think we’ve got a team that’s obviously peaking at the right time.”

KU was led offensively by freshman Caroline Bien, the Big 12 freshman of the year and a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park. She had 13 kills, while teammate Caroline Crawford — from Lansing, Kansas — added 12.

“At this level, at this point in time in the NCAA Tournament, a 3-0 sweep, it is impressive,” Bechard said. “And that means we were good in all phases.”

The Jayhawks, now 17-11, will play 14th-seeded Creighton at 7 p.m. Friday with a Sweet 16 berth on the line; the Bluejays defeated Ole Miss, 3-0, on Thursday night to advance.

KU previously was upset by Creighton in the 2016 NCAA Tournament in a match played at Horejsi Center in Lawrence. Bechard said Thursday that Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth was one of his good friends, saying she’d turned Creighton into a mid-major power in volleyball like Gonzaga has become in men’s basketball.

“We would hope that we could have some of the epic showdowns that we’ve had in the past,” Bechard said before Creighton played Thursday, “if that does come to fruition.”

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