Kansas Welcomes Baylor on Senior Night
Nov. 25, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. –History could highlight the final night of the regular season when the Kansas volleyball team hosts Baylor on senior night at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Senior night has the makings to be a memorable one as senior trio Lauren Hagan, Nicole Tate and Allison Mayfield will be honored before and after the match, with the chance to make history in Mayfield’s reach. The Overland Park native, who already claimed the program’s all-time attempts leader role earlier this season, needs just 13 more kills to become the Jayhawks’ all-time, single-season kills leader.
Each four-year Jayhawk veterans, this year’s senior class has helped Kansas to 60 wins during their careers, as well as three upsets over top-25 ranked teams, highlighted earlier this season with a win over then-No. 6 Minnesota, the highest-ranked opponent defeated in program history.
“They’ve all taken a little different path,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Nicole Tate has been pretty much a four-year starter for us, in and out. She has done a great job over the last four years leading our offense. Lauren Hagan took a leap of faith to come here as a non-scholarship recruit and made all the adjustments asked. Unfortunately, her shoulder broke down before her career was over and she has worked extremely hard to come back from that. She’s always been a very valuable teammate. Allison Mayfield is one that we’ve relied on throughout her career in all phases of the game. She’s had a very, very good senior year and a solid career. We’ve seen tremendous growth from Mayfield and the way she competes, which we’re even more pleased about.”
The added emotional element to Saturday’s match, however, will not deter Kansas (14-14, 2-13) from the task at hand. A win against the Bears would hand the Jayhawks their third-straight winning season. Sitting at No. 47 in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index, the Jayhawks have one more opportunity to boost their RPI mark with a win against Baylor (18-13, 5-10), who enters the week at No. 45.
“Baylor has a lot to play for and we feel like we have a ton to play for, too,” Bechard said. “At this point in the season, we can either make our season a little bit better or you can be a little bit more disappointed. Our choice, obviously, is to make it better. Last year when we beat Oklahoma to end our season, it just created a sense of accomplishment and allows your team to look more forward to the spring at what lies ahead. Plus, it’s a fitting way for the seniors to end their season at home.”
Baylor leads the all-time series 21-13 and took the first match of the season series in Waco, Texas on Oct. 1, 3-1.
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Each senior and her parents will be honored on the floor prior to the match and will address the crowd with senior speeches at the conclusion of the match.
KANSAS (Overall: 14-14 | Big 12: 2-13 | RPI: 47)
On Wednesday, Kansas fired out of the locker room ready to even the season series with Kansas State, handily claiming the opening set before going to the break tied at a set apiece. What followed was a dramatic back-and-forth battle to be expected from the pair of longtime rivals as KU erased a late four-point deficit in the third, only to fall by the slimmest margin possible and never trailed by more than two points despite falling in the fourth and final frame.
Again, the Jayhawks shined on the stat sheet as they outhit (.191/.172), out-blocked (11.0/9.0), out-dug (73/66) and committed fewer errors (24/30) than the Wildcats, but came up short in the 3-1 loss.
After tying the Wildcats at 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 in the fourth set, the season’s list of frustrations lengthened when the Jayhawks dropped sets three and four to KSU by just two points. In 15 conference matches, Kansas has played 60 sets, taking at least one set from every conference opponent with the exception of No. 13 Iowa State. Of those 60 sets, the Jayhawks have won 19 and lost 14 by three points or less. Now reaching the end of a season full of closely-contested matches, Kansas will fight for its third conference win on Saturday – the team’s lowest win total in the Big 12 since the 2006 season (3-17).
Coming one dig shy of her 10th double-double of the year with 15 kills and nine digs against Kansas State, Mayfield continues to lead the Big 12 with 4.16 kills per set. Middle blockers Caroline Jarmoc (1.25) and Tayler Tolefree (1.15) rank second and third, respectively, in the league in blocks per set to help Kansas rank third in the conference as a team with 2.58 bps.
The last time Kansas and Baylor met, the Jayhawks dug a season-best 96 attacks. No Big 12 team has produced more digs in a four-set match this season. Sophomore libero Brianne Riley racked up a career-high 34 digs in Waco, the most for any Big 12 player in a league match in 2011. Riley enters the weekend ranked fourth in the conference with 4.24 digs per set after putting up her eighth 20-dig effort of the year on Wednesday.
BAYLOR (Overall: 18-13 | Big 12: 5-10 | RPI: 45)
When the Bears and Jayhawks met in October, both squads were searching for their first league win. When Baylor came out on top, it sparked a four-match win streak. In their most recent action, the Bears have been pinned up against a difficult schedule, taking on nationally-ranked Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State in three-consecutive meetings. Although then-No.9 Texas defeated the Bears in three, Baylor knocked off then-No. 25 Oklahoma and forced five sets against No. 13 Iowa State last weekend.
“They’ve done a great job down the stretch,” Bechard said. “They won at Oklahoma and they took Iowa State to five, not many teams have done that. They have a good balance, they can run a couple of different systems and have plenty of different hitters to throw at you. They’ve had a really solid year and I know they still feel like they have a chance to be considered for the NCAA Tournament so this is a big match for them, too.”
Senior Briana Tolbert leads the team with an impressive .341 attack percentage, good for fifth in the conference. She is one of four Bears who average more than two kills per set. She put up nine kills against both the Cyclones and the Longhorns. Teammate, junior middle Torri Campell, led the Bears in their last time out with 14 kills against ISU. Campbell also leads the team in blocks with 0.90 per set.
The defensive matchup looks to be another intense one from two different angles. In the front line, Kansas will put its third-best blocking in the league (2.58 bps) against Baylor’s second-best dig mark in the conference (17.44). Senior libero Allison King’s 5.11 digs per set is second-best in the Big 12 for the season, while her 2,060 career digs is second-best all-time in the conference.
The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Selection Show will air live on ESPNU, Sunday at 6 p.m.