Kansas Heads to DePaul Invitational for Final Pre-Conference Tournament
Sept. 14, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After an exciting weekend in Iowa and receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches poll, the University of Kansas volleyball team’s focus remains steady as the Jayhawks travel to the DePaul Invitational on Sept. 16-17 for their final tournament before Big 12 Conference play begins.
Kansas (8-1) created plenty of buzz after defeating the highest-ranked opponent in program history, No. 6 Minnesota, the morning after suffering its first loss of the season, a five-set battle to No. 15 Northern Iowa, in the tournament opener. The 2-1 record at UNI’s Invitational last weekend earned the Jayhawks’ their first votes on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll since the 2004 season and a No. 19 spot on the Pablo Rankings issued by RichKern.com. With 25 votes in this week’s national poll, Kansas sits just four spots out of cracking the top 25, trailing only Tennessee, Florida State and Texas A&M.
Staying out of the hype, head coach Ray Bechard is unfazed. He and his Jayhawks are focused on the task at hand this weekend against tournament field San Diego State, Valparaiso and Depaul.
“We always feel as if the next match we play is the most important match we play,” Bechard said. “That’s the way we’ve always prepared and it will continue to be that way. We have to stay mentally focused and prepared to give our next opponent our best effort.”
KANSAS (8-1, 0-0 Big 12 Conference)
For the second-straight year, Kansas is out to an 8-1 record to start the season. Aside from 2010, the Jayhawks’ 8-1 start marks the program’s best since kicking off the 2005 campaign at 10-1. The team will look to do so in Chicago, familiar territory for Illinois natives Brianne Riley and Kara and Amy Wehrs.
The first NCAA stats rankings were released on Tuesday, and Kansas checked in at No. 20 in the country in blocks per set as a team (2.72). Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc leads the KU pack as her 1.38 blocks per set rank 28th in the NCAA and third in the Big 12. On the flipside, the Jayhawks are the hardest to block in the conference. Their opponents have accumulated just 1.59 blocks per set, the fewest among league schools.
Offensively, the Jayhawks are led by senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield. Her 4.16 kills per set rank second in the Big 12 and 36th among the NCAA. She’s also racking up 4.53 points per set, good for fourth among her Big 12 foes. Junior Tayler Tolefree is swinging for a team-best. 343 attack percentage on the season, while sophomore libero Brianne Riley leads the defense with 4.03 digs per set.
Entering the fourth week of the season, Kansas ranks in the top-five in the Big 12 in three major categories as a team: hitting percentage (.258, 4th), opponent hitting percentage (.152, 3rd) and blocks (2.72 per set, 3rd).
SAN DIEGO STATE (4-1, 0-0 Mountain West Conference) | Friday, 5 p.m. CT
Last weekend’s Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic was cut short due to Tropical Storm Lee, resulting in the Aztecs being declared co-champions of the event along with Southern Illinois. Senior outside hitter Paije Pearson and sophomore setter Johnna Fouch were named to the all-tournament team at last weekend’s Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic in New Orleans.
During the matches against Tulane and William and Mary on Friday, Pearson averaged 2.75 kills, 1.50 digs and 3.12 points per set. She also recorded 0.50 blocks per set. Fouch was the tournament’s top setter with an average of 10.00 assists per set. She also finished with marks of 0.62 kills and accounted for 0.88 points per set from her setter position.
VALPARAISO (7-4, 0-0 Horizon League) | Saturday, 1:30 p.m. CT
Valparaiso goes to Chicago after winning three of its last five, although the Crusaders play a Wednesday night match against UIC at home. The Crusaders took on tournament-host Notre Dame in their last outing at the Golden Dome Invitational, falling 3-0.
Junior libero Taylor Root, the NCAA digs leader and an Honorable Mention All-American a year ago, is back at it in 2011. Root leads the Valpo defense with 5.13 digs per set. Freshman middle blocker and right-side hitter Morgan Beil represented the Crusaders on the Golden Dome Invitational All-Tournament Team last weekend. Beil earned the first all-tournament accolade of her young career after totaling 12 blocks over the three tournament matches, tied for tops by a Crusader player and tied for third among the entire tournament field. The Horizon League’s current leader in blocks per set, Beil also contributed 2.40 kills per set offensively and swung at a .255 clip over the three matches.
DEPAUL (3-7, 0-0 Big East Conference) | Saturday, 7:30 p.m. CT
DePaul enters the weekend on a three-match skid after falling in all three contests at the Cleveland State Tournament last weekend. The tournament snapped a two-match win streak with wins over Loyola and Montana State.
Freshman outside hitter Amy Lanski paces the Blue Demon offense with 114 kills, including a team-leading 15 kill effort in the Blue Demons most recent action against IPFW. Senior setter Sammy Geiger leads the team with 234 assists, but freshman setter Katie Gamsky led the team with 35 assists in DePaul’s last outing. Junior libero Kelsey Bowler registered a 30-dig performance in the tournament opener against host school, Cleveland State.
Kansas will travel to Austin, Texas and face No. 8 Texas in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 Conference opener. The Sept. 24 match is scheduled for a 4 p.m. CT start.