No. 21 Kansas Heads South to Face Sooners
Oct. 8, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Off and rolling to the program’s best 4-0 start in Big 12 Conference play, the 21st-ranked Kansas volleyball team prepares to embark on a tough rough trip that will pit the Jayhawks against Oklahoma and No. 9 Texas in a three-day span. Receiving 100 votes in last week’s AVCA Division I Coaches poll, the Sooners are up first in a 7 p.m. Wednesday meeting at the McCasland Field House.
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Oklahoma leads the all-time series, dating back to 1976, 44-30. At home, the Jayhawks are even with the Sooners at 15-15, but Oklahoma holds the advantage in Norman, Okla., 23-11, as well as on a neutral court, 7-3. The Jayhawks have won four of the last 10 meetings, but the Sooners swept the season series in 2011.
AT A GLANCE
-Kansas moved up to No. 21 on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches Poll, released Monday afternoon, tying the highest ranking ever for the Jayhawks (9/20/04). For the second-straight week, four Big 12 members hold spots in the nation’s top-25: No. 9 Texas, No. 14 Kansas State, No. 21 Kansas, No. 23 Iowa State, while Oklahoma is receiving votes.
-The Jayhawks moved to No. 14 on the NCAA RPI projections this week. Kansas debuted at No. 9 on the first NCAA RPI release of the season (Oct. 1) – the highest RPI mark in program history. In 2012, Kansas is 3-2 against top-50 RPI teams and 9-2 against the top-100 with the Jayhawks’ only losses coming at Arkansas (No. 20) and at Notre Dame (No. 34).
-If the season ended today, Kansas would break another program record as no other Jayhawk offense has accumulated a .253 team attack percentage in a single season (record .246, 2003). Additionally, KU’s 15.96 digs per set would check in as the best since the 2001 campaign.
-Kansas is looking to match its highest win total in the last seven seasons (17, 2010) on Wednesday at OU. The last time the Jayhawks tallied 17 victories in a season prior to 2010 was the 2004 campaign, which resulted in an NCAA Tournament bid.
-KU won its 10th-straight home match of the season on Saturday against Baylor, the program’s longest win streak at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
-Kansas continues its historical run through conference play, tallying a 4-0 record for the first time in either league’s (Big 12 or Big Eight) history. Heading into Wednesday, KU and top-10 Texas are the only unbeaten teams in Big 12 play.
-KU is 3-0 this season against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll (RV Tulsa, RV Creighton, then-No. 19 Iowa State).
-In the latest NCAA national statistics (Oct. 8), junior setter Erin McNorton ranks seventh in the country in assists per set (11.99), Jarmoc checks in at 15th in attack percentage (.405), while junior libero Brianne Riley is 33rd in the NCAA in digs per set (5.24) – 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 (14.33 per set, 24th NCAA), assists (13.45 per set, 17th NCAA) and digs (15.96, 80th 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), and have only been tied in assists once this year (Kansas State, Oct. 1).
NO. 21 KANSAS (16-2, 4-0 Big 12)
In his 15th season at the helm, head coach Ray Bechard was taken aback when reporters asked about the program-best 10-match win streak at home, another accolade the Jayhawks accomplished this season, following KU’s defeat of Baylor on Saturday. Among the national ranking and top-10 RPI talk, the home court streak added to the list that Bechard is proud of, but unwilling to lose focus for, during the 2012 campaign.
Although one of two undefeated Big 12 teams in conference play, Bechard is much more pleased with KU’s crucial road victories (at Texas Tech, at West Virginia) up to this point as he and the Jayhawks prepare to embark on one of the toughest stretches in the schedule. KU will bus to Norman, Okla., for a Wednesday night match and stay on the road to bus to Austin, Texas and square off against No. 9 Texas – the only other Big 12 unbeaten – on Friday night. Then, KU heads home to host No. 14 Kansas State on Wed., Oct. 17.
A year ago, then-No. 22 Oklahoma was one of three teams throughout the course of the year that KU built a 2-0 lead against before ultimately falling in the fifth set. In 2012, Kansas is 3-0 in five-set meetings after having built a 2-0 lead (RV Creighton, No. 19 Iowa State, Baylor), in which the opponent tied it up – forcing KU to win it in the fifth.
Redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc continues to lead the team – and the league – with her .405 attack percentage, boosted by 12 kills and one error against Baylor in the team’s last time out. She and sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton rank in the Big 12’s top-10 with 3.67 and 3.29 kills per set, respectively. Meanwhile, Jarmoc and senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree are the only duo in the league to land in the conference’s top-10 in both attack percentage and blocks per set.
For the first time this season, junior setter Erin McNorton dipped under 12 assists per set by the slimmest of margins (11.99), but remains atop the Big 12 as does fellow junior, libero Brianne Riley, who heads up the league in digs per set with 5.24.
RV OKLAHOMA (14-5, 3-1 Big 12)
Led by Santiago Restrepo in his ninth season as head coach, Oklahoma was voted to finish fourth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll and enters the week at third in the standings, behind No. 9 Texas and No. 21 Kansas. Last week, the Sooners were one spot away from the top-25, receiving 100 votes after handing No. 14 Kansas State its first loss of the season.
Oklahoma followed its sweep of the top-15 Wildcats with a three-set loss at No. 9 Texas. The Sooners also succumbed to a first-set loss to West Virginia before beating the Big 12 newcomer in four. A loss to Wichita State marked OU’s fifth of the season, which the Sooners followed with a sweeping victory at TCU on Saturday.
Much like Kansas, Oklahoma is led by a dominant junior middle blocker as KU’s Jarmoc and OU’s Sallie McLaurin go No. 1, No. 2 at the top of the Big 12 in attack percentage, and first and fourth in the league’s blocks per set mark. The 2011 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and AVCA All-America honorable mention honoree, McLaurin is the only other player besides Jarmoc hitting above .400 in the Big 12. She averages 2.70 kills and a Big 12-best 1.67 blocks per set.
OU’s biggest loss to graduation came at the setting position, as All-American Brianne Barker finished her career in 2011. Freshman Julia Doyle is filling the role nicely, averaging 9.82 assists per set and earning the Big 12 Rookie of the Week honor on Monday.
Senior libero and OU’s all-time digs leader, Maria Fernanda, leads the team with 4.69 digs per set.
HEAD COACH Ray Bechard
On seeing similarities between Oklahoma’s team and his own:
“I do (see similarities). They are more physical at the setting position, which is a drastic change from where they’d been. They had who I thought was the best player in the league inch for inch in (setter, Brianne) Barker in the last few years, but she was a little bit of a liability at the net, blocking-wise. They’ve got a great freshman setting now. They’ve really changed from what I thought was a scrappy, in-transition to now a physical, physical team with the new influx of players they have.”
(Sallie) McLaurin is an All-American player that can do so many things and score points both offensively and defensively so there are a lot of similarities between her and Caroline (Jarmoc).”
On Oklahoma’s style of play:
“They are a very low-error team. Their setter (Julia Doyle) gives them a chance to swing and they have a very high-level libero (Maria Fernanda), so they’re good behind the block. The change is how much more physical they are at the net. Honestly, Santiago (Restrepo), if he coaches your team for a week, he’d do a great job with them. He puts his team in position to be successful with the personnel he has.”
On the momentum that comes with a 4-0 start:
“We needed to be 4-0 at this point with what lies ahead of us in the next two weeks. The road wins at Texas Tech and West Virginia were absolutely necessary and then we needed to hold home court. We’ve got our toughest three-match stretch of the season with going to Oklahoma, at Texas and then K-State. But you don’t look at it that way, you look only at how you can be successful one point at a time against OU. It’s a tough place to play against a high-level team. At this point, that’s what our team needs to grow some more. We’re excited about the start – we’re halfway through the first half, but there’s a long way to go. It’s fun to look at the standings right now and get a feel for where everyone’s at, but there’s a long way to go. Everyone’s played a different schedule, but the cool part about our league is everyone gets to play each other twice, so we’ll have a much better feel once we’ve gotten halfway through it and seen everybody once.”
Kansas faces a short turnaround as the Jayhawks will travel from Norman to Austin, Texas to face No. 9 Texas on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The match will be televised by the Longhorn Network.
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