Jayhawk Volleyball Prepares for Spring Season

March 15, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – On the verge of an NCAA Tournament bid to conclude the 2011 campaign, the Kansas volleyball team is hard at work preparing for the 2012 season as head coach Ray Bechard unveiled the Jayhawks’ spring schedule this week.

The Jayhawks, who finished the 2011 season with a 15-14 record, will face a variety of opponents both on the road and at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center during the spring. Bechard’s roster returned to the court full-time for six, 20-hour practice weeks that began on Friday, March 9. The team will take next week off for spring break before regrouping for the remaining five weeks.

During that time, Bechard will run full practices with his squad that lost just three seniors from last fall, including KU’s all-time kills leader Allison Mayfield. The 14-year head coach is excited to get back to work with his returning crew.

“There’s a ton of work we want to get done,” Bechard said. “With both of our setters, it’s critical for them to spend a bunch of time together. We have the opportunity to run a two-setter system at times, so Kara (Wehrs) and Erin (McNorton) will be heavily involved this spring. We’ve got a lot of experience coming back in the middle, but there are a lot of areas that we are going to work on with them offensively.”

The Jayhawks will begin the spring season at a tournament hosted at Blue Valley West High School where they will face St. Louis, Missouri State and Creighton. Kansas will then host a training day on April 7 before heading to Nebraska-Kearney for the Big Guns Invite on April 21. In Nebraska, KU will match up against Wyoming, Creighton and Northern Colorado as well as host school Nebraska-Kearney.

“Wyoming and Creighton are both teams we will have on our schedule next year, so we’re excited about that,” Bechard said. “We will see a number of teams that have been successful within their own conference and at the NCAA level. We’ll see a nice mix of teams to compete against.”

Last summer, the Jayhawks played seven matches during an overseas training trip to Italy. The training trip and international competition allowed Bechard to use both the spring and the summer to prepare his team for the fall season. Without a trip to Europe in the plans prior to the 2012 season, the spring schedule becomes even more vital to the Jayhawks’ preparation.

“Our trip last summer did quite a bit (toward getting our players more experience),” Bechard said. “But we obviously don’t have that this summer. So that means the spring season will take on a much more significant role for these guys. We tried to schedule a lot of matches so we could give kids a lot of reps. This is the time of year where you really start to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team. We’ll make the changes needed so we can hit the ground running this fall.”