As the No. 11 KU volleyball team huddled, Larry Hare sprung into action.
Midway through the first set of No. 23 Baylor’s sweep over the Jayhawks (25-17, 25-21, 25-18) at Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Saturday, the Bears challenged a point in the midst of what would become a 7-1 run. The Jayhawks waited to hear the result as Hare, the assistant athletic director for equipment services, slid onto the court, kneeling down to fiddle with the black shoelace on Ainise Havili’s left blue and black Adidas shoe.
“‘Lare’ was kind of freaking out about it,” Havili joked.
As it were, Hare may have handled his business with more urgency than anyone on the KU volleyball team on Saturday. But first, let's talk about the shoelace.
Hare was called into action after Havili ripped the shoelace early in the first set.
Havili tried to tuck it into her shoe to no avail. The shoe began to slide off her foot, and it was clear the lace she had kept intact since the beginning of the season needed to go.
“She’s too strong,” joked an onlooking Taylor Alexander. “That’s what it was.”
Be it the broken shoelace, challenge, set or match, the Jayhawks (21-5) found themselves on the wrong side of things far too often on Saturday.
The Bears (21-5, 11-2), who entered Horejsi having swept their previous four opponents, sustained that domination, controlling the net and stifling each of KU’s top performers.
Kelsie Payne, a two-time AVCA first team All-American, had a minus-.133 hitting percentage (1 kill, 3 errors, 15 swings) through the first two sets. Havili, who came into the match averaging 11.61 assists per set, was held below 30 assists for the first time in Big 12 play since Oct. 23, 2015.
Even Allie Nelson, whom coach Ray Bechard called "overlooked" after the team's last win against K-State, totaled only 11 digs, her lowest total in nearly a month.
“Baylor came in on a roll. Obviously this match was extremely important to them,” Bechard said. “They showed it by the way they played.”
On this day more than any of the past, the Jayhawks missed the services of Madison Rigdon, who was unavailable for the third straight outing with an undisclosed injury. Rigdon remains day-to-day.
In the Jayhawks' sweep over the Bears earlier this season — coincidentally the last time the Bears lost a set — Rigdon accounted for a third of the team's offense, tallying 18 kills and assisting two blocks.
Bechard, though, wasn’t about to use that as an excuse.
“Ashley Smith (team-high 10 kills) played well. Addison Barry, she played well,” Bechard said. “That’s not the issue today. It’s just that the Jayhawks got outplayed.”
It was that disappointment that led to the scene after the match.
Immediately following the action, Bechard expressed his displeasure with how the Jayhawks had played on Saturday, as well as in recent wins, noting several times they needed to regroup moving forward.
Although his tone after the match was restrained, he was certainly able to get his point across during an extended chat with the team behind closed doors.
“We got ripped a little bit in the locker room, deservedly so,” Havili said. “We’ve just got to, like, wake up.”
Moving forward, Bechard highlighted the “little things” such as communication and placement that the Jayhawks need to work on, in addition to adjustments in practice.
Certainly as the Jayhawks dropped to 10-3 in Big 12 play, falling behind a Baylor squad that came in with an identical conference record, they know it won’t get any easier.
“Is this a situation we learn from?” Bechard said. “I guess we’ll only know when we take the floor against Texas."