Underclassmen Play Important Role in KU's Successful Spring

April 20, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. –

The Kansas Volleyball team closed out its spring season on a high note as it won six of its nine matches played this past month.

The Jayhawks’ 6-1-2 record included wins over Washburn, Central Missouri, Rockhurst, Kansas State, Saint Louis and 2010 NCAA Tournament participant Creighton.

“This spring was really critical for a number of young players, especially our outside hitters,” said head coach Ray Bechard.

All in all, Kansas boasts 10 underclassmen on its current roster heading into the 2011 season, which is why coach Bechard gave his younger players some much sought after time on the court.

“We lost (seniors) Jenna Kaiser and Karina Garlington and suddenly we have a right side and two left sides who have never really experienced Division I volleyball,” Bechard noted. “This spring came at absolutely the best time for them.”

Kaiser’s and Garlington’s departures leave freshmen Marianne Beal, Catherine Carmichael and Amy Wehrs with duties out on the pin, while junior Allison Mayfield rests an injury. Beal and Carmichael appeared in just eight and four matches, respectively last season. Wehrs had slightly more court time seeing the floor on 14 occasions.

“For Marianne, Amy and Catherine it was obviously a learning experience but an opportunity to gain a lot of Division I experience against some good teams. So from that standpoint, we feel like we really learned a lot more about those three,” Bechard added.

Relatively new to the sport of volleyball, Carmichael, who took a redshirt in 2009, made perhaps the most progress this spring hitting between .280-.290 during her first significant playing time.

“For Catherine, having the most limited volleyball background, this was the most extensive opportunity she’s had to play and I was very pleased with how she has responded,” Bechard said. “I think she has made some significant gains in just understanding how the game is played and how fast it is played. Obviously we know she has a way to go but I know we are pretty proud of the progress she has made.”

Kansas’ middle blocker duo of sophomores Caroline Jarmoc and Tayler Tolefree rounded out the Jayhawks’ front row. The pair continued the solid play demonstrated last fall hitting over .300 during KU’s nine spring matches.

Guiding the Jayhawks’ offense was junior Nicole Tate, along with freshmen Kara Wehrs and Erin McNorton, another area in which the coaches felt the team gained some valuable experience.

Sophomore Morgan Boub and freshmen Brianne Riley and Jaime Mathieu handled the defensive duties.

“Everyone played a lot. It’s not only about competition opportunities, but also about technical changes and making improvements,” Bechard said of spring competition. “Everybody is getting better.”

Despite the progress he saw during April’s spring competition, there’s still plenty of work to be done in the gym.

“We’re probably just like any Division I staff where the list of things we want to do a little better seem to out-weigh the positive things we saw. But we enjoy getting in the gym with these girls every day so although we were somewhat pleased, there is still a check list of things we want to really attack before the fall gets here.”

Coach Bechard and the Jayhawks will look this fall to improve upon their 17-win season in 2010 and get to the NCAA Tournament, a place they haven’t been since 2005. Bechard is already the most winningest coach in program history, with 207-career victories. He is now a combined 15-1-4 during the past two spring seasons.