Dillons Sunflower Showdown opens Big 12 play for No. 12 Kansas volleyball
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas volleyball begins Big 12 Conference play with the season’s first installment of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan on Sunday at noon. The match between the 12th-ranked Jayhawks and the Wildcats will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
• The University of Kansas and Kansas Athletics announced Friday plans to construct a new 3,000-seat arena thanks to the generosity of the Stewart Horejsi Family. Construction of the Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena will begin immediately following the 2017 season.
• Sunday’s Dillons Sunflower Showdown will mark KU’s first appearance on ESPN2 since competing in the NCAA Championship national semifinal against No. 4 Nebraska on Dec. 17, 2015.
• Kansas State leads the all-time series with Kansas, 61-44, but the Jayhawks have a 9-1 record against the Wildcats in the last 10 matches. KU has won five-straight overall and five-straight on the road at Ahearn Field House.
• Kansas is 8-13 in Big 12 openers, including an 8-11 mark under head coach Ray Bechard.
• In the last three matches, Kansas has 15 aces and just 13 service errors for a 1.2 service aces-to-errors ratio.
• Kansas is ranked No. 12 this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll. The Jayhawks have been ranked 36-straight times.
• Kansas leads the Big 12 in kills per set (14.96) and assists per set (14.00), while ranking second in digs per set (16.18). Kelsie Payne paces the league kills per set (4.53) and points per set (4.96). Ainise Havili leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth in the nation in assists per set (12.00). Madison Rigdon ranks fourth in the Big 12 in points per set (4.31).
Ray Bechard is in his 20th season as head coach of Kansas volleyball this season.
• Kelsie Payne is 13 kills away from moving into third on KU’s career kills list; Payne enters Sunday in fifth place (1,300).
• Kansas is one of six programs in the nation to finish with a top-15 RPI for the last five seasons.
Sunday’s Dillons Sunflower Showdown will mark KU’s first appearance on ESPN2 since competing in the NCAA Championship national semifinal against No. 4 Nebraska on Dec. 17, 2015. Courtney Lyle and former Mississippi State head coach Jenny Hazelwood have the call on “The Deuce”. Last season, Kansas also opened conference play on national TV, defeating Oklahoma on ESPNU.
Audio steaming will be available on KUAthletics.com/radio with Nick Lewis calling play-by-play. The Dillons Sunflower Showdown can also be heard on the radio via Jayhawk Radio Network affiliate KLWN (FM 101.7 and AM 1320).
Kansas State leads the all-time series with Kansas, 61-44, but the Jayhawks have had the upper-hand of late. In the last 10 matches Kansas holds a 9-1 record against the Wildcats, including five-straight wins overall and five-straight wins on the road at Ahearn Field House.
Led by 17th-year head coach Suzie Fritz, K-State enters Sunday with a 4-1 record in the last five matches, including a five-set Big 12-openeing win at Oklahoma on Wednesday. The Wildcats rank sixth in the Big 12 in hitting percentage (.241) and seventh in kills per set (13.22). Middle blocker Peyton Williams ranks second in the league in hitting percentage (.392)and setter/DS Brooke Smith ranks third in aces per set (0.37).
BIG 12 OPENER
Sunday marks the Big 12 Conference opener for Kansas, while K-State is playing its second conference match of the season. Kansas is 8-13 in Big 12 openers, including a 8-11 mark under head coach Ray Bechard. The Jayhawks are 3-10 when playing their first Big 12 match of the season on the road. Including Sunday, Kansas has opened league play on the road for eight of the last 10 seasons. The last two seasons, Kansas opened Big 12 play with home victories over K-State (2015) and Oklahoma (2016).
In the last three matches, Kansas has 15 aces and just 13 service errors for a 1.2 service aces-to-errors ratio. KU’s excellent serving of late is a rapid improvement after a poor serving performance during a four-match home stand in which Kansas recorded 10 aces and 32 service errors for a 0.3 aces-to-errors ratio.
On the season, Kansas has 48 aces led by Madison Rigdon’s 20.
LAST TIME OUT – WEEK 4 WRAP
Senior Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili earned All-Tournament honors at the Santa Clara / San Jose State Invitational, Sept. 15-16, in the Bay Area. The Jayhawks defeated San Jose State in four sets, lost to Santa Clara in five sets and concluded nonconference play with a four-set win over Idaho. Payne recorded four blocks against San Jose State to become the 14th Jayhawk to reach 300 career blocks. Kansas snapped a five-match San Jose State winning streak by holding the Spartans to just 43 kills on a .092 hitting percentage. KU’s five-set loss to Santa Clara is the first loss against an unranked opponent since Dec. 4, 2014 against Little Rock in the NCAA Tournament. Havili nearly posted a triple-double with 50 assists, 16 digs and nine kills on a .533 attacking clip against the Broncos. With the win over Idaho, Kansas finishes the regular-season portion of nonconference play with at least 11 wins for the seventh-straight season. Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Smith contributed a career-high 13 kills against the Vandals.
Kansas moved to No. 12 in the AVCA Coaches Poll on Monday, Sept. 18. The reigning Big 12 champion Jayhawks have been ranked 36-straight times in the AVCA poll. KU’s season-high No. 7 ranking came on Sept. 4.
The Big 12 features three of its nine teams ranked in the top-25, including No. 12 Kansas, No. 6 Texas and No. 18 Iowa State. The Jayhawks feature a 2-1 record against current top-15 teams, including wins over No. 10 Kentucky and No. 13 Purdue. Two additional 2017 opponents (Baylor and Missouri State) are receiving votes in this week’s poll.
BIG 12 LEADERS
Kansas leads the Big 12 in kills per set (14.96) and assists per set (14.00), while ranking second in digs per set (16.18). Kelsie Payne paces the league kills per set (4.53) and points per set (4.96). Ainise Havili leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth in the nation in assists per set (12.00). Madison Rigdon ranks fourth in the Big 12 in points per set (4.31).
Havili has the most assists by a Big 12 player in a match this season (63 at NC State, Aug. 26). Sophomore libero Allie Nelson has the most digs by a Big 12 player in a four-set match (28 vs. Missouri State, Aug. 26).
COUNTRY’S TOP WINNING PERCENTAGE SINCE 2015
Since the start of the 2015 season, Kansas has the highest winning percentage in the country (.895). The Jayhawks are 68-8 in the last three seasons.
Senior setter Ainise Havili has recorded an assist-dig double-double in 11 of KU’s 13 matches this season. The Jayhawks combine for seven kill-dig double-doubles this season as senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon has six and senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne has one.
MILLER GAINS STARTING EXPERIENCE
Senior Tori Miller has started three matches this season as a back-row defensive specialist in lieu of a second outside hitter for the Jayhawks. Her first start of the season came against Montana (Sept. 2). She has played in every set of every match this season. Before 2017, Miller’s last starts came during the 2014 season when she started three-straight matches during Big 12 play. Miller is coming off a career-high 16-dig performance against Idaho (Sept. 16).
BECHARD IN 20th SEASON
Ray Bechard is in his 20th season as head coach of Kansas volleyball this season. During his tenure as the leader of the program, Bechard has become the winningest coach in program history while charting an unprecedented era of success. The western Kansas native has recruited and coached all nine of KU’s AVCA All-Americans and has more than 1,000 career victories in his 33-year head coaching career at Barton County Community College (1985-97) and KU (1998-present).
REGULAR-SEASON NONCONFERENCE SUCCESS
Kansas ended pre-conference play having won 35 of the last 37 matches against nonconference opponents during the regular season. That stretch includes winning 10 of the last 12 nonconference tournament titles and a 25-match winning streak. KU’s 25-match regular-season nonconference winning streak lasted from a win over North Texas on Sept. 19, 2014, to a loss at No. 14 Purdue on Sept. 16, 2016.
The Jayhawks have gone undefeated through the nonconference portion of the regular season four times under head coach Ray Bechard (2000, 2002, 2004 and 2015) and are 191-32 (.857) against nonconference teams during the regular season since his arrival.
Senior All-Americans Kelsie Payne, Ainise Havili and Madison Rigdon are on pace to rewrite KU’s record books this season.
Havili stands second in career assists (4,501) and ninth in career digs (1,120). She passed the 4,000-assist mark with 43 assists against Missouri State (Aug. 26). Andi Rozum (2002-05) currently holds KU’s career assists record with 4,772. Havili became the 14th all-time Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career digs with 14 against NC State (Aug. 26).
Payne ranks first in career hitting percentage (.354), fifth in career kills (1,300) and 12th in career blocks (305). She now needs 183 more kills to tie the current record of 1,483 held by Josi Lima (2002-05). Last season Payne became the 15th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 kills. On Sept. 15 against San Jose State, she became the 13th Jayhawk to reach 300 blocks.
Rigdon ranks 15th in career kills (1,056) and is third in career aces (127). Rigdon became the 16th Jayhawk to reach the century mark in career kills with 15 against Purdue (Sept. 8).
THREE-STRAIGHT BIG 12 OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
In the first three weeks of the regular season, Kansas took home Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors with setter outside hitter Madison Rigdon (Sept. 11), right-side hitter Kelsie Payne (Sept. 4) and setter Ainise Havili (Aug. 28) honored by the Big 12.
Since the Big 12 began awarding offensive players of the week in 2007, there have been only three times when a team has earned three-straight Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors from three different players. Kansas has done it the last two times in 2013 and 2017.
Rigdon earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors after becoming the 16th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career kills and given Kansas Invitational All-Tournament Team honors after helping lead the Jayhawks to a pair of top-20 wins during week three of the season. She notched three double-doubles and averaged 4.08 kills per set on a .342 hitting percentage. She started the week with 16 kills on a .577 hitting percentage with seven digs during a three-set sweep of No. 13 Kentucky on Monday, Sept. 4. The Pflugerville, Texas, native passed the century mark in career kills with 15, plus 10 digs, in a four-set win over No. 17 Purdue on Friday night, Sept. 8. Rigdon ended the week by collecting her sixth double-double of the season with 11 kills and 14 digs in three sets against No. 9 Creighton (Sept. 9).
Payne was named MVP of the Wolverine Invitational, averaging 4.80 kills per set on a .389 hitting percentage as Kansas worked its way to a 6-0 start for the third-straight season. Payne started the tournament with 18 kills – the most by a Big 12 player in a three-set match this season – on a .516 hitting percentage in just three sets against Utah Valley on Thursday. She notched her third 20-kill performance of the season with 20 kills against Long Beach State on Friday, adding eight digs and three blocks. On Saturday, Payne contributed 10 kills, six digs and two blocks in KU’s sweep of Montana.
Havili was named the first Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week of the 2017 season after leading the Jayhawks to the Wolfpack Invitational title with a 3-0 record while averaging 12.31 assists per set and 4.15 digs per set. The Fort Worth, Texas, native was named MVP of the season-opening event after posting three-straight double-doubles. She started with 54 assists and 22 digs in a four-set victory at NC State (Aug. 25). The next day she posted 43 assists and 18 digs with two blocks in a four-set win over Missouri State (Aug. 26) and became the fourth Jayhawk to reach 4,000 career assists. Havili then reached 60 assists for the second time in her career with 63 in a five-set win at NC State (Aug. 26), while adding three kills, 14 digs and three blocks against the Wolfpack.
In a four-set win over Missouri State (Aug. 26), the Jayhawks recorded 19.0 team blocks – the most in a match since posting 20.5 team rejections in a five-set win over Oklahoma on Nov. 29, 2014. KU was led by eight blocks (one solo) from sophomore Zoe Hill and seven blocks (two solo) from senior Taylor Alexander. It is just the second time Kansas has reached at least 19.0 team blocks during the 25-point rally-scoring era, since 2008. Kansas currently ranks third in the Big 12 in blocks per set (2.48).
In the last five seasons, since 2012, Kansas has simply been one the elite programs in the country with five-straight …
• NCAA Tournament appearances
• Top-15 finishes in the NCAA RPI
• 20-win seasons
• Home winning percentages over .800
Kansas’ Big 12 home opener will be against No. 18 Iowa State at Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Wednesday, Sept. 27 (6:30 p.m., JTV/ESPN3).