Kansas Travels to Texas Tech for Big 12 Opener

Sept. 20, 2012

Kansas at Texas Tech
Senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree is fifth all-time at KU in career block assists (289).
Sept. 22, 2012
Location Lubbock, Texas
Saturday 6:00 p.m. CT
Live Video Texas Tech All-Access
Live Audio AT&T Jayhawk All-Access
Game Notes Kansas
Big 12 Notes Weekly Release

LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time in the Big 12 Conference era, the Kansas volleyball team will travel to Lubbock, Texas to open league play against the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, Saturday at 6 p.m. inside the United Spirit Arena.

Kansas at Texas Tech will stream live audio play-by-play on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access free of charge. Kyle West will have the call. Texas Tech will stream live video also free of charge. Fans can always track the Jayhawks on GameTracker or by following JayhawkVball on Twitter.

Kansas is 17-16 all-time against Texas Tech in a series that dates back to 1982. The Jayhawks hold a 10-6 all-time advantage at home, while they trail the Red Raiders on their home court, 7-9. On a neutral floor, TTU also has the upper hand at 1-0.

KU has claimed four of the last five meetings, including a series sweep last season. Both home and away, Kansas dropped the first set before coming back for 3-1 victories.

-Head coach Ray Bechard earned his 950th career victory on Wednesday in KU’s defeat of the Creighton Bluejays. Bechard is 950-264 in 27 seasons as a head coach and 234-204 in 15 seasons at Kansas.

-Since the forming of the Big 12, Kansas has never opened league play against Texas Tech. The Jayhawks have debuted against current members: Kansas State (three times), Texas (two times), Iowa State (once) and Oklahoma (once). Former members Nebraska and Texas A&M were KU’s conference opener three times each, as were Colorado (twice) and Missouri (once). Aside from conference newcomers West Virginia and TCU, Baylor is the only other Big 12 foe Kansas has not squared off against in a conference opener.

-Saturday’s meeting at Texas Tech marks the fifth-straight year Kansas has started conference play on the road. KU is 4-12 all-time in Big 12 openers.

-Last time out, KU defeated Creighton to earn its second victory over a team receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll. The last time KU faced a team receiving votes, the Jayhawks defeated Tulsa in four sets (Aug. 31).

-Tournament MVP in three of KU’s four pre-conference invitationals, redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc recorded her first career 20-kill performance against Creighton on Wednesday (22). KU’s other 20-kill effort was also against a team receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll (Sara McClinton, 22 vs. Tulsa).

-In the NCAA national statistics, released on Monday evening, junior setter Erin McNorton ranks third in the country in assists per set (12.46), Jarmoc checks in at 15th in attack percentage (.404), while junior libero Brianne Riley was 24th in the NCAA in digs per set (5.50) – all three lead the Big 12 in their respective categories.

-As a unit, Kansas leads the Big 12 in the big three: kills (14.64 per set), assists (13.84 per set) and digs (16.32).

KANSAS (12-2, 0-0)
A year ago, Kansas entered Big 12 play against a top-10 Texas squad with an 11-1 record led by the conference’s second-ranked player in kills per set (Allison Mayfield) using a third-best blocks per set average (2.84 blocks per set). In 2012, a 12-2 Kansas squad again has the league’s No. 2 in kills per set (Caroline Jarmoc) and is blocking at a rate of 2.84 blocks per set.

The Jayhawks, however, aren’t concerned with last year. As KU prepares to open league action in a conference that ranked No. 1 in the NCAA RPI last year, head coach Ray Bechard and company know it takes more than statistics to be successful. Voted to finish sixth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll, Kansas has balanced its offense, strengthened its defense and has refined its focus to controlling what it can and closing out matches.

In its last time out, Kansas cruised to a 2-0 lead against a Creighton team that was off to its best start in school history. Unsurprisingly, the Bluejays fought back to tie the match at 2-2 and forcing KU to play its first five-set match of 2012. Kansas responded – hitting .280 as a team and getting four kills from Jarmoc, an All-Big 12 Preseason selection.

Already in 2012, Kansas tied the program’s ninth-longest win streak (nine) and lifted Bechard to his 950th career victory. Now the Jayhawks are focused on what’s next.

Five Jayhawks chip in more than two kills per set, while Jarmoc and sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton average 3.90 and 3.48, respectively, both of which rank in the top-five in the Big 12.

Jarmoc, who has appeared on eight-consecutive All-Tournament Teams, is putting together a highlight reel season and capped that off with a career-high 22 kills against Creighton in KU’s last time out. Aside from leading the conference in attack percentage (.404), Jarmoc’s team-best 3.90 kills per set ranks second in the league. The Calgary, Alberta, Canada native paces KU with 1.38 blocks per set.

McNorton has much to do with the Jayhawks’ Big-12 best 13.84 kills per set. She dishes out 12.46 assists per frame, good for third in the NCAA. Holding down the back row, Riley is the Big 12 digs leader at an even 5.50 average, and stands just 17 digs shy of tying Sarah Rome for fourth all-time on KU’s career digs list.

TEXAS TECH (11-4, 0-0)
Led by second-year head coach Don Flora, Texas Tech was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. After jumping out to an 11-1 start, the Red Raiders begin conference play on a three-match losing skid. On Wednesday, TTU lost in a tight battle at Nevada, 3-2.

Bechard compared the Red Raider offense to his own as Texas Tech also lost a marquee player in Amanda Dowdy to graduation. Like former Jayhawk Allison Mayfield did at Kansas, Dowdy set many offensive records during her time in Lubbock. Just as the Jayhawks have done, Tech is learning – and succeeding – in bringing a more balanced attack to the table in 2012.

Flora does so with a younger cast of characters as three of his key players, as well the starting libero, are new faces. Freshmen outside hitters Emily Ehrle and Meghan Stacy lead the team with 2.71 and 2.53 kills per set, respectively. Emily Ruetter, also a freshman, starts at setter and is averaging 10.84 assists per set, while sophomore Rachel Brummitt transferred from Radford and is now the Red Raiders’ starting libero (4.74 digs per set).

As a team, TTU holds a .242 attack percentage with 13.16 kills per set. Defensively, the Red Raiders dig 14.79 balls per set and block at a 2.42 rate.

HEAD COACH Ray Bechard
On Texas Tech losing former standout Amanda Dowdy to graduation:
“I think there are some parallels we can make to us losing (Allison) Mayfield and them losing (Amanda) Dowdy, suddenly you spread opportunity around and people take ownership and make yourself a much more difficult team to defend. I think that is exactly what they have going on. Obviously they had a great player for four years, but now they have spread the responsibility. They have a lot of good players in their program, a lot of new players in their program and they have had some very good pre-conference wins. They will be a very difficult task for us.”

On this year’s team having a more aggressive mentality:
“Dynamics of teams change every year and this team has a different dynamic. They have had an opportunity to experience some things together as a group, which creates a different dynamic and hopefully it will be more of a competitive dynamic when things are tough, because we have had moments in pre-conference. We just need to look at each match, whether it is conference or not, as an opportunity. There is a dynamic within this group where I think they trust each other and they are really willing to go to battle with each other.”

On the character building that comes from a match like the Creighton victory:
“Number one, you finish out a team when you are up 2-0, so we need to learn from that, but having played in a tight fifth set is invaluable, you can’t come up with that scenario in practice, with all the pressure that is out there and a playing against a good team. That will be valuable, but I think the lesson we learned, too, is can we be sharper when we come out of the locker room in set three, because we weren’t and the momentum shifted and all of a sudden it is a coin toss. In that fifth set, we played some of our best volleyball of the night, under some pretty tough circumstances. I’m sure we will be in that situation again, so hopefully we can draw from that.”

Kansas returns home to host No. 19 Iowa State, Wed., Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. The match will be televised by Metro Sports.

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