Spring Update: Jayhawks Successful in Nebraska, Ready for Final Week

April 24, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Spring practice is entering its final week and the Kansas volleyball team feels its progress is where it should be following a successful showing at the Big Guns Invitational hosted by Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday.

The Jayhawks played two sets apiece against Kansas State, Creighton, Wyoming and Northern Colorado, winning five of eight with the use of an injury-plagued roster. After the heavy workload the team endures during the six weeks of allotted practice, head coach Ray Bechard is familiar with a shortened amount of players to work with.

“Spring is tough,” Bechard said. “From a coaching standpoint, you have tons of things on your plate from recruiting to training your team. Plus, we’re pushing the team a little harder in both weights and practice than we would in the regular season. Everybody thinks that spring is casual, but it’s very intense over this six-week period. Like I told the team on Monday morning, if they were feeling great then we aren’t doing our jobs. They should be a little bit tired, sore and mentally fried – and they are. So we’re going to get even better this week.”

Throughout Saturday’s tournament, teammates picked each other up to fill any holes in the lineup. Outside hitters Catherine Carmichael and Sara McClinton split time, while Marianne Beal gained valuable experience as Chelsea Albers’ time was limited.

“There’s a point where we’d like to have everyone available, but that’s just not going to happen right now,” Bechard said. “Various teams had some of the same issues we were dealing with. At this point of the year, everyone’s a little dinged up, a little tired, a little grumpy. If you’re not, then you’re not working very hard. If we were fresh and happy, then we haven’t worked as hard as we needed to in the last five weeks.”

Defensively, the Jayhawks were close to fully operational as Brianne Riley filled her starting libero role with Jaime Mathieu and Morgan Boub at defensive specialist. Caroline Jarmoc had a solid day at middle blocker, alongside Jessie Allen who stood in for Tayler Tolefree.

“As you roll through the spring, you continue to emphasize different things,” Bechard said. “We always have significant emphasis on pass and serve phase, but transition offense and having an opportunity for our whole roster to get experience were big considerations this weekend.”

Facing four different teams in one day provided the Jayhawks several learning opportunities as the team faced varying strengths and tempos from each opponent. With the additional exposure, Bechard has a firm grasp on what needs to be addressed before the final day of spring practice on April 28.

“We’ll grind it out every day,” Bechard said. “We make adjustments and small changes to the way we approach things. We get better every day, that’s what the spring is for.”