Focused Kansas Squad Set to Host In-State Rival Kansas State
Oct. 17, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After facing Border Showdown rival Missouri on the road last week, the University of Kansas volleyball team will bring the other half of the Sunflower State Showdown to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center when the Jayhawks face Kansas State, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Kansas (12-7, 0-6) fell victim to a heartbreaking loss on the road at No. 22 Oklahoma, as the Jayhawks took a top-25 team to five sets for the third time this season but were unable to hold off the Sooners. For the third-straight league match, Kansas bested its opponent on the stat sheet in nearly every category, but the Jayhawks head into Wednesday night hungry for a Big 12 Conference win.
Although the stage is always bigger during a rivalry match, head coach Ray Bechard and his Jayhawks have one focus and one focus only.
“We’ve got 10 matches left and six happen to be at home, so regardless of who it is, we have no margin for error,” Bechard said. “We need to get things turned around. We’re just looking forward to our next match. There are several similarities with our players and those from K-State, with a lot of Kansas and Kansas City-area kids on the floor. That obviously adds some awareness to the match, but what’s critical for us is that we play well enough, long enough to get a Big 12 win.”
Wednesday’s match marks the 96th meeting between the old rivals, with Kansas State leading the all-time series, 59-36. KSU was one of few season-series sweeps the Jayhawks suffered in Big 12 play last season, although Kansas took a set from the Wildcats at their place and two at home last season.
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
For the second time this season, Metro Sports will be on hand to televise the match with Brenda VanLengen and former Jayhawk Jill (Dorsey) Hall calling the action. Knology subscribers can find the match on channel 37. Wednesday’s match will also be broadcast live on KLWN 1320 AM. Kyle West will be on the mic.
Live video and audio streaming is available on Jayhawk All-Access free of charge for fans unable to make it to HFAC. As always, fans can track the Jayhawks on GameTracker or by following JayhawkVball on Twitter.
KANSAS (12-7, 0-6 Big 12)
Watching the Jayhawks, who debuted this week at No. 39 in the NCAA RPI projections, in action or skimming their latest box scores would leave many guessing how that first Big 12 win has managed to escape them.
Against Texas A&M, Kansas posted a better attack percentage and more digs, aces and blocks. Against Missouri, KU again rang up a higher attack percentage and more blocks than the Tigers.
The story didn’t change last Saturday at No. 22 Oklahoma. Kansas had the nationally-ranked Sooners on the ropes, posting more kills (68/58), more digs (74/64) and more assists (65/53) than Oklahoma. On OU’s home floor, Kansas never trailed in during its second-set victory and lost the third set by the slimmest margin possible.
With numbers like that, the Jayhawks’ mindset remains calm as Bechard and company has confidence in a 12-win squad who knocked off the highest-ranked opponent in program history just over a month ago. In seven losses on the year, only one has come at the hands of a team not receiving votes or ranked on the AVCA Division I Top-25 Coaches poll.
“You continue to try to identify the strengths of your team and the areas that you can shore up and we’ll continue to do that,” Bechard said. “There’s still some areas that we can perform better, and we’re working on that. What we do know is that everyone involved with this program feels that we are capable of playing at a high level and we’ve done that over the last few weeks, but just not consistently long enough to do well in the league that we play in. The next match gives us an opportunity to do that.”
When the NCAA RPI projections were released Monday afternoon, Kansas checked in at No. 39, while six of their opponents this season are listed in the top 25 – including Minnesota. In September, KU took down then-No. 6 Minnesota, who debuted at No. 4 on the NCAA’s RPI rankings.
As a team, Kansas ranks in the top five in the Big 12 in blocks (2.65, 2nd), opponent hitting percentage (.169, 4th), service aces (1.25, 5th) and digs (14.90, 5th). Senior Allison Mayfield collected her seventh double-double of the season at Oklahoma, tallying 21 kills and 11 digs. Her 4.21 kills per set ranks second in the league, trailing only Kaitlynn Pelger from Kansas State. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc leads the Big 12 in conference-only matches with 0.38 aces per set, while she and junior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree rank fifth and fourth, respectively, in the league in blocks per set.
“We’ve been getting good performances individually and collectively for some time now,” Bechard said. “Now it comes down to how we can extend that for little bit longer so we can create the types of results we want.”
KANSAS STATE (14-6, 3-3 Big 12)
The Wildcats opened the season with back-to-back losses against Georgia Tech and Louisville before rebounding with nine-match win streak. That streak included victories against Baylor and at Missouri to kick off conference play. Despite a sweep at No. 10 Texas last Saturday, the Wildcats enter the week receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches poll and rank fifth in the Big 12 standings.
“It appears that as their pre-conference schedule went along, they continued to get better and stronger,” Bechard said. “They’ve also had some big wins in our league so I know they’re excited about the way they’ve been playing.”
Pelger, a sophomore middle blocker, has led the Big 12 in kills (4.56 per set) and points (5.60 per set) for the entirety of the season. She led the Wildcats against Texas with 12 kills and a .308 attack percentage.
“Pelger does so many things for them. She’s a six-rotation player and for a middle that’s very unique,” Bechard said. “She’s obviously a big part of their offense, but defensively she also does a great job and she’ll do some secondary setting for them. She’s key and it’s unique that she does so many things for them, not just from the front row but from the back row, as well.”
Fellow sophomore Lilla Porubek is second on the team with 3.31 kills per set and added 11 against the Longhorns in the loss. Junior libero Kuulei Kabalis leads the squad with 3.49 digs per set.
Next Saturday, the Jayhawks will welcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.