Jayhawks Set to Start Spring Tournaments

March 28, 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Ready to build on the best season in program history, the Kansas volleyball team will put its intense off-season practice schedule to use when the Jayhawks take the court for the upcoming spring slate.

On March 4, the Jayhawks started reporting to the gym to get a jump on the 2013 prep work after conditioning and training individually throughout the winter. During the spring, the Jayhawks kick-off each day with 6:30 a.m. team practice before heading to class.

“We are going early every morning, which presents its challenges to players and coaches,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “But we have so many classes in the afternoon that is the route that we have to take. To this point I have been really pleased with them being awake and ready and wanting to get better. It has been good and now we are looking forward to the phase of getting to play other teams, too.”

Kansas finished the 2012 campaign with a 26-7 record, good for a program-best .788 winning percentage. The Jayhawks, ranked No. 25 in the final AVCA poll of last season, went on to receive a No. 11 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and rights to host the First and Second rounds.

KU swept the season series against top-20 Kansas State and took one from nationally ranked Iowa State as well as series sweeps over Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia and Texas Tech to finish 12-4 in the Big 12. The Jayhawks’ third-place finish in the league also marked the highest in program history, propelling Bechard to Big 12 and AVCA Regional Coach of the Year honors.

Though the Jayhawks said goodbye to seniors Tayler Tolefree and Morgan Boub, the core of the Kansas lineup returns for the 2013 season and will be in action this spring.

That includes redshirt senior-to-be middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, who became the program’s first All-American at the conclusion of her record-breaking season. Heading into her senior year, Jarmoc holds the program record for single-season and career attack percentage and is on pace to break KU’s blocks record. Fellow senior-to-be libero Brianne Riley will look to add to her total as the Jayhawks’ career digs leader, a mark she broke in only three seasons.

“We have a lot of experience and we are older,” Bechard said. “That means that the volume of the practice takes its toll on the older girls, but I think they also understand what the expectations are. I think they are excited about the spring and they will be awfully excited about next fall.”

The Jayhawks begin their spring tournament schedule on March 30 in Colby, Kan., where KU will face fellow NCAA Tournament teams Wichita State and Colorado State. KU will stay home and host full day training and competition sessions on April 6 and again on April 13. The Heart of America Havoc, the professional team in Kansas City, UMKC and Missouri State are all teams KU will face during their weekends at home.

“The four Saturdays that we have, we will do some informal training strategies in the morning and some more game-type situations in the afternoon where you play 25-point games,” Bechard explained. “The team training sessions in the morning allow you to identify some specific things that you and the teams you are training with want to work on and then that culminates in the afternoon with some live 25-point games.”

Wrapping up its spring schedule, KU will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to train and compete with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Both the Shockers and Razorbacks played in the NCAA First and Second rounds that Kansas hosted at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

“The match format is pretty informal, but that’s what the spring has to be for,” Bechard said. “You learn in the fall about your team and what we did well, but we have a couple really specific things that we are going to try and do better. The best way to get better is to stop and address and say, ‘Let’s do this better and here is what we need to do to do this better.'”

The Jayhawks will officially wrap up the team practice portion of the spring after their final tournament at Arkansas on April 20.

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