SAN DIEGO -- It looked like it had been a good run by the Kansas volleyball team, but No. 1 seed Southern Cal had restored order. The Jayhawks' upset bid appeared to have been pounded into submission by Trojans outside hitter Samantha Bricio. A nice effort by the Jayhawks, but just not enough.
Yeah, it seemed like that ... until the Jayhawks orchestrated as stunning a fifth-set rally as you're likely to ever see in an NCAA volleyball regional. Kansas, down 13-9, scored six consecutive points and pulled the upset of this tournament, winning the final set 15-13 and advancing to the school's first appearance in the final four. Kansas will take on Nebraska in Omaha on Thursday. Texas and Minnesota will meet in the other national semifinal.
In the other three regionals, the top-seeded team prevailed, as the No. 2 Gophers, No. 3 Longhorns and No. 4 Huskers advanced. But in the San Diego regional, the No. 9 seed Jayhawks triumphed.
The last point between USC and Kansas itself was epic, as the ball crossed the net 14 times after the serve, with both sides making crucial saves but not being able to put down a kill. However, the final swing came from Kansas sophomore Madison Rigdon, who got the winning kill.
USC, which spent six weeks this season ranked No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, was left to wonder how this match got away. Kansas won the first two sets 25-18 and 25-21, but USC came back to win the next two 25-22 and 25-19.
Then the Trojans took a 4-0 lead in the final set, and it looked as if USC would run away with the match and advance to the program's 11th final four.
Once it was 13-9, with Bricio having 25 kills and the Trojans just two points away from advancing, the Jayhawks' dream seemed very much in peril. But Kansas, which had also been down big in the third set before rallying to make it close, was not discouraged, and amazingly, USC didn't score again.
Here's how the next six points -- five served by Kansas libero Cassie Wait -- went to give the Jayhawks the match. They got a kill from Janae Hall, and then a bad set prevented Bricio from getting a swing. Then Brico was blocked by Tayler Soucie and Kelsie Payne. That was followed by a service ace from Wait, and with that, the match was tied at 13.
A kill by Payne -- who led the Jayhawks with 18 -- and then the aforementioned Rigdon kill closed out the upset. Wait and KU setter Ainise Havili combined for 50 digs.
Now the Jayhawks join fellow Big 12 school Texas in the final four. Kansas was runner-up to Texas in the league this season.
Kansas and Nebraska haven't met since the Huskers moved to the Big Ten before the 2011 season. But they have a long history from their Big Eight/Big 12 days, and it's been all Nebraska.
The Huskers lead the series 86-0-1 against Kansas (the tie was a two-set match played in 1977), but Kansas will worry about trying to slay the Big Red goliath a little later. Saturday it was all about celebrating an improbable victory over the Pac-12 co-champion Trojans.
For USC, it was a painful end to the season and to Bricio's college career. Despite becoming the school's all-time kills leader, she never advanced to the final four, as the Trojans lost three times in the regional final and once in the second round during her career.
Since the NCAA volleyball tournament began seeding teams 1-16 in 2000, this marked the fourth time the overall No. 1 seed did not make the final four. It happened previously in 2004 (Nebraska), 2010 (Florida), and 2011 (Texas).