Jayhawks Sweep Season Opener at Georgia Bulldog Invitational

ATHENS, Ga. – Powered by a career-best .700 attack percentage from junior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree, the University of Kansas volleyball team kicked off its 2011 campaign with a 3-0 victory against Florida A&M at the Ramsey Center on the University of Georgia campus Friday afternoon, 25-22, 25-23, 25-20.

Senior Allison Mayfield led the team with 15 kills, while freshman outside hitter Chelsea Albers tallied five total blocks in her Jayhawk debut. Sophomore setter Kara Wehrsalso enjoyed a career day with her 5-for-10 attack performance (.500).

Kansas (1-0) found itself battling from behind in the first and second sets, but showed poise and patience as the Jayhawks diligently built a 2-0 lead heading into the third set. Ready to leave the close sets behind, KU rocketed out to a 21-8 lead before a Florida A&M (0-1) rally gave Kansas an opportunity to show its ability to close out a match.

“It’s a 3-0 win, so I have to think about that first,” head coach Ray Bechardsaid, who moved to 12-2 all-time in season openers at Kansas on Friday. “But, it was a little uneven because our first contact wasn’t always what we wanted it to be. We were good when we needed to be, but when we make subs, we need everyone to be involved.”

The first set of the season sparked the afternoon’s back-and-forth drama before KU locked it down, 25-22. After briefly falling behind, 4-1, a kill from Mayfield and three-straight attacking errors for the Lady Rattlers resulted in a 6-1 Jayhawk run. Kansas took over with a 7-6 lead, causing Florida A&M coach Tony Trifonov to use his first timeout.

Mayfield, who racked up seven kills in the first set, sophomore right side Marianne Beal and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmocrattled off a trio of kills to boost the Jayhawk lead, 10-7. The Lady Rattlers, however, countered using a pair of kills from sophomore outside hitter Katherine Huanec to swing the lead back in their favor, 13-11.

Kara Wehrs and Mayfield crushed back-to-back kills to regain the advantage, 15-13. Although FAMU persisted, a well-executed block from Kara Wehrsand Tolefree highlighted the run that would eventually win the set for Kansas.

Both Jayhawk freshmen, Albers and Sara McClinton saw time in the season opener. Albers’ kill shortened a FAMU rally before a powerful swing from Mayfield and a well-placed ball from Jarmoc resulted in two more kills and a 24-22 lead. An ace from junior defensive specialist Morgan Boubsealed the first set, 25-22.

“(Albers and McClinton) had some anxious moments,” Bechard said. “They both also made good volleyball plays, though. I was happy with that.”

In the second set, the Jayhawks again found themselves battling from behind, despite hitting at a red-hot .394 clip as a team. FAMU benefitted from a service ace and a kill to take an early lead, 5-3. Unyielding, Kansas immediately answered with a service ace of its own from sophomore libero Brianne Rileyand regained the lead, 8-7.

The teams continued to trade slight leads as the second set played out in a similarly dramatic fashion as the first. The Jayhawk defense kicked into high gear getting back-to-back blocks from Jarmoc and Albers to build their largest lead of the set, 21-17.

A kill and a service ace from FAMU’s side of the net shortened the Jayhawks’ advantage, but a heads-up kill from Kara Wehrsand a quick swing from Tolefree clinched the set, 25-23.

“(Tayler) Tolefree was very clean today with seven kills on 10 swings,” Bechard said. “(Caroline) Jarmoc played well in the first and second sets. One of our goals is establishing our middles.”

Armed with a 2-0 lead, the Jayhawk defense shined to kickoff the third set. Albers notched the first solo block of her career before Jarmoc and Wehrs combined for an assisted block, propelling their team to a quick 6-3 advantage.Ready for a suspense-free series, Kansas rocketed out to a 15-7 lead using sharp-shooting performances from Tolefree and Mayfield. The two cranked out seven combined kills in the third-set victory.

Drama found its way into the third set via a 12-2 FAMU run, but Kansas buckled down and forced FAMU errors to take the set, 25-20, for the first win of the year.

-Freshman Sara McClinton made the first start of her career the first opportunity she got, taking the court on Friday afternoon. -Sophomore outside hitter Catherine Carmichael tallied her first kill as a Jayhawk in the third set. -Junior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree’s previous career-best attack percentage (.667) occurred at Texas A&M (10/31/09). -Head coach Ray Bechardmoves to 12-2 all-time in his season openers at Kansas.

Kansas returns to the Ramsey Center on Saturday to face the Liberty Flames at 9 a.m., and will conclude the weekend against tournament host, Georgia at 6 p.m.