No. 24 Kansas Ready for First Big 12 Trip to West Virginia
Oct. 1, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Holding its first national ranking and 2-0 start in the Big 12 since the 2005 season, the Kansas volleyball team is preparing for another first as the Jayhawks will make their inaugural visit to Morgantown, W. Va., to take on West Virginia, Wednesday at 5:30 CT.
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A live audio stream will be available free of charge on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Kyle West will call the action. Fans can always track the Jayhawks on GameTracker or by following JayhawkVball on Twitter.
Kansas holds a 2-0 series record against the Mountaineers of West Virginia, but the teams haven’t squared off since the 2000 season. In their last meeting, the teams met in Lawrence where Kansas claimed a 3-1 victory (Sept. 8, 2000).
AT A GLANCE
-Kansas debuted at No. 24 on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches Poll, released Monday afternoon. The Jayhawks began receiving votes in last week’s poll for the first time this season and now hold their first national ranking since Sept. 24, 2005.
-The NCAA released the first RPI projections of the season, where Kansas debuted at No. 9 – the highest RPI mark in program history. In 2012, Kansas is 4-2 against top-50 RPI teams and 7-2 against the top-100 with the Jayhawks’ only losses coming at Arkansas (No. 16) and at Notre Dame (No. 50).
-KU is 3-0 this season against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll (RV Tulsa, RV Creighton, No. 19 Iowa State). For the first time in 2012, four Big 12 teams are ranked (No. 9 Texas, No. 14 Kansas State, No. 22 Iowa State, No. 24 Kansas) and Oklahoma is receiving votes.
-Freshman outside hitter Tiana Dockery was named the Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Monday after chalking up a double-double in KU’s win over No. 19 Iowa State.
-The Jayhawks are looking for their first 3-0 start ever in conference play, which includes the Big 12 Conference (began 1996) and the Big Eight (began 1983).
-A Kansas win would mark only the fourth time in program history that the Jayhawks recorded their 15th win of the season this early in October. Only the 1991 team (Sept. 22) won 15 matches prior to the start of October, while the 1986 and 1992 squads chalked up win No. 15 on Oct. 3, as well.
-In the latest NCAA national statistics (Oct. 1), junior setter Erin McNorton ranks fifth in the country in assists per set (12.19), Jarmoc checks in at 27th in attack percentage (.395), while junior libero Brianne Riley was 26th in the NCAA in digs per set (5.33) – all three have led the Big 12 in their respective categories since Aug. 28.
-As a unit, Kansas continues to lead the Big 12 in the big three: kills (14.48 per set, 18th NCAA), assists (13.64 per set, 12th NCAA) and digs (16.24, 69th NCAA). KU has led the conference in kills and assists all season long. The only time the Jayhawks did not lead the league in digs was on Aug. 24 (TCU). Kansas has taken the digs lead and maintained it since Aug. 28.
NO. 24 KANSAS (14-2, 2-0 Big 12)
Although pleased with the news of his team earning a spot in the top-25 and debuting at a program-best No. 9 RPI projection, head coach Ray Bechard would rather discuss something else. After upsetting No. 19 Iowa State, the Jayhawks are receiving national attention, but Bechard and the Jayhawks refuse to take their own attention away from West Virginia and the one match at a time philosophy.
What the Jayhawks would rather discuss, however, is their increased ability to close out matches against key opponents – specifically in five-set situations. Twice this season, Kansas has built a 2-0 lead against teams in the national poll (RV Creighton, No. 19 ISU), fought off losing sets three and four only to come back strong and win the decisive fifth set. A year ago, KU was also able to build 2-0 leads against teams appearing on the poll (No. 15 Northern Iowa, RV Texas A&M and No. 22 Oklahoma), but was unable to close out those decisions.
Heading into Morgantown, the Kansas offense touts five Jayhawks averaging than two kills per set. Redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc and sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton lead the team at 3.79 and 3.39, respectively. Against the Cyclones, a balanced Kansas offense saw four Jayhawks turn in at least 13 kills as only one player took over 50 swings (McClinton, 53).
A true testament to the Jayhawks’ strength in the middle, Jarmoc and senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree are the only duo in the Big 12 that are top-10 in the league in both attack percentage (.395, .340) and blocks per set (1.45, 1.12).
Aside from leading the conference in attack percentage (.395), Jarmoc’s team-best 3.79 kills per set ranks second in the league. The Calgary, Alberta, Canada native paces KU with 1.45 blocks per set, good for 17th in the country.
KU’s Big-12 leading 14.48 is due in large part to junior setter Erin McNorton. She dishes out 12.19 assists per frame, good for fifth in the NCAA. Holding down the back row, junior libero Brianne Riley is the Big 12 digs leader at an even 5.33 average, who cracked the 300-dig for the third-straight season during the Iowa State match.
WEST VIRGINIA (8-9, 0-4 Big 12)
Led by third-year head coach Jill Kramer, league newcomer West Virginia was voted to finish ninth in the 2012 Big 12 Preseason Poll. WVU and Texas are the only teams in the conference to already have four matches under their belt. Still looking for their first Big 12 win, the Mountaineers took TCU to five sets and won the first set at Oklahoma in their last time out.
The Mountaineers’ inaugural Big 12 season comes in a rebuilding year. Against Oklahoma on Saturday, WVU started four freshmen as well as a rookie libero. Freshman outside hitter Hannah Sackett leads the team with 2.70 kills per set, while freshman middle blocker sets the team tone in hitting efficiency at .294.
Setting for the Mountaineers is another rookie in Brittany Sample. Seeing time in all 64 sets this season, Sample averages 9.72 assists in each of them. Behind her is fellow rookie, libero Anna Panagiotakopolous, who leads the team with 3.36 digs per set.
As a team, WVU is hitting for a .177 attack percentage with 12.00 kills per set. Defensively, the Mountaineers dig at a 13.47 per set rate and average 1.84 blocks per set, with no one putting up more than one block per set.
HEAD COACH Ray Bechard
On West Virginia personnel and what he’s seen out of them so far:
“Well they’re young and I think they thought this was going to be a rebuilding year for them, but they’re halfway through a season now and I think their freshmen feel like they’re Big 12 capable. A clear testament to that is they go five with TCU and win the opening set at Oklahoma, which many people haven’t done. It’s apparent that they feel like they are ready to compete in the Big 12.”
On West Virginia being new to the Big 12:
“That newness is probably part of their motivation in that they’re bound and determined to prove that they belong in this league. Every trip is a new one, every opponent is new, and there’s a certain level of energy and enthusiasm that develops from that – especially in young players. Young players are sometimes a little naïve about what’s going on, they just want to play, have fun and get after it. They’ve been very comfortable at home, winning seven of 11 matches. So number one, they’re a great addition to our league and number two, they’re coaching staff is doing a great job out there.”
On KU’s last visit to West Virginia during the 1999 season:
“It’s been a while ago, in my second season. They had an asbestos problem in their main gym so we played in an auxiliary facility, but it was a pretty place and a fun trip. The former coach was a KU graduate (Veronica Hammersmith) and now they have an assistant that was a former player of ours (Sara Kidd, 1999-2000). Obviously, they will provide a great opportunity for us, but we’ll have to play well.”
On the long travel day:
“It’s our longest trip, but everybody’s got to go there and think about all the trips they have to make. That’s not going to factor into it. We’ll be ready to go.”
On handling the top-25 buzz within the team:
“It is what it is. Twenty five teams get ranked and that’s people’s opinion. Here it’s Oct. 1 and it’s better to be ranked Oct. 1 than Sept. 1, but it would be much better to be ranked Nov. 1 than Oct. 1 and even better still to be ranked on Dec. 1 than Nov. 1. So that’s how we’ll look at it if and when it does happen, just as part of the process. Hopefully, we’ll continue to play at a level that’s deserving of that.”
Kansas will return home to play host to Baylor on Sat., Oct. 6. First serve at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center is set for 6:30 p.m.
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