Jayhawks Set to Open Season at Arkansas
Aug. 22, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the seventh-straight year, the Kansas volleyball team will open its season on the road as the Jayhawks commence the 2012 campaign at the Arkansas Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., Aug. 24-25.
-Friday: vs. Northwestern State, 4:30 p.m.
-Saturday: vs. Tennessee-Martin, 1:30 p.m.
-Saturday: at Arkansas, 7 p.m.
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
Kansas Athletics is expanding its coverage of the Jayhawk volleyball team this season by providing live audio streams of each match – both at home and on the road – free of charge. Home matches will also be accompanied by a live video stream for a subscription fee. Kyle West will have the call. Fans can always track the Jayhawks on GameTracker or by following JayhawkVball on Twitter.
KANSAS (0-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Kansas will open its 38th volleyball season on the road for the seventh-consecutive year. The road has been good to the Jayhawks, however, as Kansas won last season’s opening tournament hosted by fellow SEC school, Georgia. KU would go on to win three tournaments before the start of league play last year – only one of which was at home.
In his 15th season at Kansas, coaching veteran Ray Bechard is 12-2 in season openers with the Jayhawks.
In 2012, the Jayhawks are looking to kick-off the fall in similar fashion. Voted to finish sixth in the Big 12 Preseason poll, Kansas returns five starters and the libero from 2011. With the sizable sophomore class transitioning to juniors this season, 12 of the 17 players on the KU roster are upperclassmen in 2012.
The Jayhawks are led both offensively and defensively by All-Big 12 Preseason selection Caroline Jarmoc. The Calgary, Alberta, Canada, native finished second in the league in blocks per set (1.25) and service aces per set (0.28), but also appeared on several more of the Big 12’s top-10 lists last season, including attack percentage (.311), kills (2.92 kills per set) and points (3.93 points per set).
A redshirt junior, Jarmoc joins senior Tayler Tolefree as a fourth-year middle blocker in the program, bringing valued experience to an area the Jayhawks excel in. As a unit, KU ranked among the league’s top three teams in blocks per set all season long. The Jayhawks finished the regular season third in the conference with 2.57 blocks per set, good for 36th in the NCAA.
Behind them, KU’s lineup also brings back a wealth of knowledge as two-year starting libero Brianne Riley returns to the court after averaging 4.34 digs per set last year, fourth-most in the Big 12.
Offensively, the Jayhawks return nearly 70 percent of their offense from the 2011 squad even without Allison Mayfield, who broke the Kansas single-season record last year with 462 kills during her senior campaign. KU averaged 13.12 kills per set last year, compared to its opponents’ 12.42 average.
Sophomores Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton will continue to provide power for the offense with a year of starting experience behind them. In 2011, Albers approached the 100 kills (111), digs (171) and blocks (84) mark, the closest of any Jayhawk over the year, while McClinton was third on the team with 2.34 kills per set.
Redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael likely earned herself a starting spot after a productive offseason, while freshman Tiana Dockery looks to make an impact right away. Dockery is predicted to have the quickest effect among the Jayhawks’ four newcomers this fall, as Bechard speaks highly of her primary passing skill, consistent swings and fundamentally-sound defensive abilities.
Dishing out the assists will likely be junior setters Kara Wehrs and Erin McNorton. Wehrs started 18 matches at setter last fall and is the prime candidate for the starting spot again this season.
NORTHWESTERN STATE (0-0, 0-0 Southland Conference) | Friday | 4:30 p.m.
Voted to finish sixth in the Southland Conference preseason poll, Northwestern State returns to the floor after finishing last season 10-20 overall and 6-10 in the SLC. Coached by Hugh and Stephanie Hernesman, the Lady Demons bring experience to the 2012 campaign as all six starters return from last fall.
The Demons are led by Preseason All-Southland selections Stacey DiFrancesco and Emily Sweet. Both sophomores, DiFrancesco, last year’s Southland Freshman of the Year, was a first-team selection while Sweet made the second team.
TENNESSEE-MARTIN (0-0, 0-0 Ohio Valley Conference) | Saturday | 1:30 p.m.
Led by head coach Darrin McClure, Tennessee-Martin was voted to finish fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll after posting a 19-14 overall record last year and a 12-8 mark in conference play. The Skyhawks also made an appearance in the OVC tournament championship for the first time since 2002.
Senior Kasey Elswick leads the Skyhawks from the back row. The senior libero has won the OVC Defensive Player of the Year award for two straight years and demolished the previous NCAA Division-I record (in the 25-point scoring format/unlimited libero substitutions era) with 852 digs in 2011. Elswick received national attention for her outstanding junior season, earning honorable mention All-American accolades by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
ARKANSAS (0-0, 0-0 SEC) | Saturday | 7:00 p.m.
Like Kansas, Arkansas also returns five starters and the libero from its 2011 squad. The only team in the opening tournament that Kansas has met previously, Arkansas was voted to finish third in the SEC after an 18-13 season with a 10-10 mark in league action. Head coach Robert Pulliza starts his fifth year with the program in 2012.
For the third-straight year the Razorbacks were represented by senior Jasmine Gordon on the Preseason All-Southeastern Conference Team. Last year, she became the 14th player in program history to reach 1,000 career kills and currently is No. 6 on Arkansas’ all-time list.During the 2011 season, Norton averaged 3.63 kills per set which she improved to 4.00 kills per set in conference play. She also posted 2.33 digs per set, 0.50 blocks per set and 0.22 service aces per set.
Kansas head coach Ray Bechard
On the opening weekend’s tournament field:
“For the first match, there was very little scout opportunity. We can go off some past history, but we have to take care of our side and essentially do all the things that we have been working on up to this. It is a team that I know is well coached. They probably won’t be a Big 12-level physicality team, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be extremely competitive. Everybody is undefeated at this point, so everybody has this level of aspiration and hope. That sometimes carries a bit of momentum, too. They look at it as an opportunity to play a Big 12 school and they play pretty free in mind with no pressure, because they have nothing to lose here, that frees teams up to play at a higher level than you might have if the expectation was different. All that being said, we will go in there and do what we do, which is try to control the first contact and allow our physicality to impact the match from an attacking and blocking standpoint.”
“As you get into the tournament, you get a chance to see Tennessee-Martin and develop a hurried scout, but at least a scout. We are familiar with coach Robby and his teams, we have played them a couple of times and we have seen them in the fall also. I know he will feel like this will be his best team since he has been here and I think over the last three or four years he has been building to this year. This is an opportunity, not only for him to be completive in the SEC, but I know his goal is to advance in the NCAA Tournament also.”
On SEC vs. Big 12 volleyball:
“I think they have two new members this year and I think that will help, because they were competitive teams within our conference. Some people still think there will be some separation, but I know now with Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky as top-20 schools and you add (Texas) A&M and Missouri in that mix. Arkansas is going to be very good and LSU, they now have a conference that they feel like is on par with anyone in the country.”
On testing different lineups in the first week:
“Tiana Dockery and Janae Hall will undoubtedly get a chance to get out there when it really counts. Sylvia Bullock will probably get her chance, too. It will be another level of expectation and another level of getting through something for the first time, so there is a certain level of anxiety with that. I think we will be fine. I think what we have done a lot through two-a-days, exposing them to a lot of different scenarios, which hopefully will serve them well going into their debut as Jayhawk volleyball players.”
On forming the starting lineup:
“I think we have (Sara) McClinton and (Caroline) Jarmoc and (Tayler) Tolefree in there pretty solid. I think Brianne (Riley) is pretty solid at libero. We will see how (Chelsea) Albers does, she is working back through some things, but I think (Catherine) Carmichael has worked herself into that situation. We know (Marianne) Beal will play. We know (Tiana) Dockery will play. Jessie (Allen) has had a good two-a-days. All of our little people as we call them, (Morgan) Boub, Amy Wehrs and Jaime Mathieu will all contribute at some level. I think we will have two setters who will split time, so Kara (Wehrs) and Erin (McNorton) are both ready to go. I think we have 10 or 11 people we feel comfortable throwing out there and seeing how it goes.”
On this year’s depth:
“Depth is good, when it is depth that can play. You can have four people in a position, but how many can play? We feel like we have a little bit more exchangeable parts. Also, can they play more than one position? A pin player is a pin player when they can move to the right side and the left side both. I think (Tiana) Dockery is very capable of doing that, she has that in her. (Sara) McClinton even and (Catherine) Carmichael too, so we are excited about that side of our depth, that it is people who can do more than one thing for you.”
Kansas starts a seven-match home stand on Friday, Aug. 31, when the Jayhawks play host to Sam Houston State, Tulsa and Arkansas State in the Kansas Volleyball Invitational.