Kansas to Start Second Half of Conference Season at No. 14 Iowa State
Oct. 24, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. –Coming off of a victory at home and a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week nod, the University of Kansas volleyball team will look to keep the momentum going when the Jayhawks travel to Ames, Iowa, to face the nationally ranked Iowa State Cyclones, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday’s victory against Texas Tech marked the end of the first half of conference play as Kansas chalked up a win to end a stretch head coach Ray Bechardand his Jayhawks are ready to leave behind.
“It’s the second round now,” Bechard said. “Obviously, we didn’t paint the picture we wanted to in the first round so we’re looking forward to the opportunity. This will be a great challenge for us, going to their place to face a team that’s probably as hot as anybody in the league.”
Bechard isn’t lying. Since facing the Jayhawks at the end of September, the Cyclones lost a five-set battle to then-No.8 Texas before cranking out four-straight wins, including a closely-tested four-set match on the road at Texas A&M. On Monday, ISU climbed to No. 14 on the AVCA Division I Top 25 Coaches poll, its highest ranking since the Cyclones opened the season at No. 12.
Iowa State holds the all-time series lead, 43-35-1. The Cyclones added to their win total when they handed the Jayhawks just their second sweep of the season at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Sept. 28.
“Everybody is trying to build,” Bechard said. “They’re a real crisp, hitting efficiency team. They put a lot of pressure on you with how fast they play. I think they’ve got a couple of kids that were probably a little inexperienced in the league then that look a lot more comfortable now. We hope that’s the case with us, too.”
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
Wednesday’s match will air on Metro Sports (Knology – Ch. 37) with Brenda VanLengen on play-by-play duties. Fans can also track the Jayhawks on GameTracker or by following JayhawkVball on Twitter.
KANSAS (13-8, 1-7)
The Jayhawks ended their search for their first conference win on Saturday with a come-from-behind victory against Texas Tech. Mayfield led the floor with 21 kills, her fourth 20-kill effort of the season. Heading into the week, Mayfield climbed back to 4.27 kills per set, which lands her in the No. 27 spot in the NCAA.
Mayfield had plenty of pieces around her, including redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, who broke out her second-straight, seven-block match to earn her first Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honor. Heading into Wednesday’s matchup, Jarmoc’s 1.25 blocks per set ranks third in the league, good for 37th in the country. The Canada native is consistently productive on both sides of the floor as she pounded out double-digit kills in both matches last week to highlight her team-best .318 attack percentage.
As a team, Kansas ranks second in the league with 2.67 blocks per set and out-blocked the league’s rejection leader in Texas Tech on Saturday. In fact, the Jayhawks racked up more blocks than Iowa State, Texas A&M, Missouri and Kansas State, despite falling to each of them in the first half of the conference season.
Behind Jarmoc, and fellow middle blocker Tayler Tolefree, Kansas is strong at the libero position with sophomore starter Brianne Riley. With three 20-plus and one 30-plus dig efforts in Big 12 play, Riley ranks third in conference-only matches with 4.81 digs per set.
“It’s not overwhelming for our freshman anymore, they know the expectations,” Bechard said regarding adjustments the team has made since the start of the conference season. “We have some folks, too, that have been through it before. The second time around, you have to be a little more diverse in what you’re trying to do and try to do things at a higher level. That will be our goal.”
No. 14 IOWA STATE (16-3, 7-1)
The Cyclones, who enter the week at the top of the Big 12 standings, debuted at No. 3 when the RPI projections were released earlier this month, the highest in program history. The RPI rating is well-deserved as the Cyclones’ three losses have been to top-15 teams, offset by big wins over then-No. 9 Florida and No. 22 Oklahoma.
In the first time around the Big 12, Kansas had its first look at senior outside hitter Carly Jenson who led the Cyclones against KU in September and has continued to do so with 3.80 kills per set. Yet even with the added knowledge, Bechard knows the task at hand is a heavy one.
“Obviously, there’s a certain level of familiarity, but they place as fast – or faster – in transition than anybody in the conference,” Bechard said. “It’s a little bit of change in rhythm and expectation on defense with them. They’ve got a setter (Alison Landwehr) who always has options and she can throw the ball around pretty quick.”
Iowa State holds a .255 hitting percentage, the second-best in the league. Defensively, ISU also houses the league’s top defender, libero Kristen Hahn (5.50 digs per set).
The Jayhawks stay on the road to play their only Sunday match of the conference season when the team heads to College Station, Texas to meet up with Texas A&M. The Oct. 30 start time is slated for 2 p.m.