Jayhawks Geared to Open Season at Georgia Bulldog Invitational
Aug. 24, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the sixth-consecutive year, the University of Kansas volleyball team will hit the road to open the season as the Jayhawks head to Athens, Ga., for the Georgia Bulldog Invitational, Aug. 26-27.
Head coach Ray Bechard will kickoff his 14th season at the helm of the Jayhawk volleyball program on Friday, when his team opens the 2011 campaign against Florida A&M at 3:30 p.m. CT. On Saturday, Kansas is also slated to face Liberty at 9 a.m. CT, before taking on tournament host and SEC foe, Georgia, in the final match of the weekend. First serve against the Bulldogs is set for 6 p.m. CT.
“Florida A&M won at Nebraska back in 04-05 and their team has been deep in the NCAA Tournament so Kansas isn’t going to intimidate these guys,” Bechard said. “These teams play strong conferences and strong programs every year. We’re not going to take anybody lightly this weekend. We will have to take advantage of every opportunity we get.”
Kansas is 22-14 all-time in season openers, while Bechard has enjoyed a successful bout of campaign kickoffs. The Jayhawks have posted an 11-2 record in their first match under Bechard’s watch.
2010: 17-14, 8-12 Big 12 Conference
After reporting to campus for its two-a-day preseason practice schedule that began Aug. 9, the Jayhawks enter the season’s first weekend as a solid unit. Bechard welcomes just two newcomers to integrate into a roster that returns 14 letterwinners, five starters and the starting libero.
The Jayhawks benefitted from a summer training trip to Europe, which resulted in an added boost to the team’s chemistry to coincide with a 5-2 record against overseas competition. Bechard and his staff, that includes second-year assistant Todd Chamberlain and first-year assistant and former Georgia Tech standout Laura “Bird” Kuhn, used the Italy trip as a springboard for what to focus and improve on in preseason practices. With Europe and two-a-days behind them, Bechard is ready to see what his Jayhawks can do.
“It’s been a transition process since (two-a-days ended) and classes starting,” Bechard said. “But the energy and enthusiasm with this team is up, we’re ready to go somewhere else and see how we do.”
Senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield leads the returning core with 330 kills and 2.87 kills per set last season. Starting middle blockers junior Tayler Tolefree and redshirt sophomore Caroline Jarmoc return after joining forces for 212.0 total blocks in 2010. Sophomore defensive specialist and libero Brianne Riley’s 4.11 digs per set ranked in the top 10 in the Big 12 Conference last season, while her 403 digs in 2010 ranked eighth on KU’s single-season record list.
New to the mix are Super-State honorees from Nebraska, Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton. Albers, a two-time Super-State honoree, helped power Papillion LaVista High School to state championships in 2007 and 2008. She led the state of Nebraska with 487 kills in 2009 and was second in blocks. McClinton led Millard North High School to district championships in 2008 and 2010, and was named to the all-Nebraska Super-State First Team her senior season.
FLORIDA A&M | Friday, 3:30 p.m. CT
2010: 12-15, 7-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
The Lady Rattlers fell short of their 10th-straight MEAC Championship last fall when Delaware State pulled the upset in the tournament semifinals. The team will begin work on reclaiming its title this weekend after being named the MEAC preseason favorite to win the league’s South Division.
Florida A&M is led by sophomore outside hitter Katherine Huanec, who paced the team with 3.06 kills per set last season and ranked third in the MEAC with 3.32 points per game.
LIBERTY | Saturday, 9 a.m. CT
2010: 25-9, 14-2 Big South Conference
The Flames will embark on the 2011 season in search of their fifth-straight Big South regular-season title, after finishing the year one win shy of an automatic NCAA Tournament bid in 2010. Liberty was selected the preseason favorite to win the Big South and also received three preseason All-Conference selections in junior middle blocker Loren Thomas, sophomore setter Jade Craycraft and senior libero Kelly Haseman.
Craycraft, the 2010 Big South Freshman of the Year, is a lefty setter ready for year two. Thomas posted a .309 attack percentage a year ago, good for fourth in the conference. Her 105 total blocks ranked second on the team behind Kendle Rollins (120). Haseman’s 5.12 digs per set led the Big South and ranked 32nd in the NCAA a year ago.
GEORGIA | Saturday, 6 p.m. CT
2010: 15-17, 6-14 SEC
This weekend will mark the debut of first-year head coach Lizzy Stemke. Stemke arrived in Athens, Ga., following a four-year assistant coaching stint at Nebraska. She steps in to lead a squad comprised of 10 returning letterwinners, including five starters and the starting libero. The Bulldogs are led by a senior trio consisting of setter Kathleen Gates, middle blocker Ann Dylla and libero Carla Tietz.
Last year, Gates became the sixth player in program history to surpass 3,000 assists while Tietz’ 412 digs pushed her further up UGA’s top-10 career digs list. Dylla led the team with 309 kills and 2.51 kills per set in 2010 and ranks in the Bulldogs’ top-10 in block assists (335) and total blocks (362).
The Jayhawks will return home to play host to the Jayhawk Invitational, Sept. 2-3. Kansas will welcome Appalachian State, Belmont and South Dakota State to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.