The Jayhawks proved to be the Bulldogs’ highest-ranked opponent since facing No. 3 UCLA on Sept. 4, 2004.
Samford (21-14), which was competing in its third NCAA Tournament in the last six years Thursday, played toe-to-toe with the favorite Jayhawks, who entered the postseason competition as the No. 5 seed in the 64-team event.
Kansas entered the match with a perfect 12-0 record at home this season. The Jayhawks’ only two losses of the year occurred at No. 14 Purdue, 3-1, and at No. 5 Texas, 3-1.
With Thursday’s loss, Samford closed out its 2016 campaign with 21 wins, a total that ranks tied for fifth all-time in school history. The Bulldogs also concluded Head Coach Keylor Chan’s inaugural season at the helm with the school’s sixth best winning percentage in 39 years of the program’s existence.
Kansas, which will face Creighton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 6:30 p.m. (CST), extended its winning streak to 15 straight matches. The Jayhawks have not been defeated since Sept. 24, in their second game of Big 12 Conference play at Texas.
Samford’s Kate Neisler led all competitors with a match-high 15 kills Thursday. The Bulldogs’ talented native of Jacksonville, Alabama, notched a double-double with 11 digs and turned in a team-best .387 hitting percentage.
Erin Bognar, Samford’s First-Team All-Southern Conference performer and MVP of the 2016 SoCon Tournament, also posted a double-double with 11 kills and 15 digs. She finished her senior campaign with a school-record 553 kills, a mark that shattered the previous single-season record of 497, which was set by former Bulldog great Michaela Reesor in 2013.
Bognar entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 10 in the nation in total kills.
Senior setter Erika Pifer, in her final match as a Samford Bulldog, led the squad with 21 assists Thursday. Sophomore Taylor Anderton finished with 13 in the category.
Defensively, true freshman Grace Tiesman paced Samford with 16 digs, while Kiahna Wicks posted a team-high four block assists.