No. 8 Kansas volleyball opens season at Wolfpack Invite on Friday

Matches 1-3: Wolfpack Invitational
Reynolds Coliseum
Aug. 25
at NC State – 4:30 p.m. CT
Aug. 26
vs. Missouri St. – 9:30 a.m. CT
at NC State – 6 p.m. CT
Live Coverage
Match Notes (.pdf)


• Kansas begins the 2017 regular season this weekend at the Wolfpack Invitational, hosted by NC State. The Jayhawks face NC State twice (Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT and Saturday at 6 p.m. CT) and Missouri State on Saturday morning (9:30 a.m. CT). The NC State matches will be video streamed on ACC Network Extra, available on or the ESPN app.
• KU is ranked No. 8 in the AVCA preseason coaches’ poll and was picked second in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll.
• Kansas features three returning All-Americans from its 2016 Big 12 championship season – senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, senior setter Ainise Havili and senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon. All three were unanimous selections to the 2017 Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
• Ray Bechard is entering his 20th season as head coach at KU. He is the program’s all-time winningest coach.
• The Jayhawks have the highest winning percentage in the country since the start of the 2015 season (.905).
• The Jayhawks swept UMKC, 4-0, in an exhibition tune-up on Saturday, Aug. 19. The KU home match was sold-out as the Big 12 championship banner was unveiled for the first time.
• KU is coming off back-to-back unprecedented seasons – advancing to the final four in 2015 and winning the program’s first-ever Big 12 Conference title in 2016.


Kansas and NC State will meet for the fourth and fifth time in series history this weekend. The Jayhawks hold a series advantage of 2-1, with all three matches being played away from Lawrence. KU won the last two meetings in straight sets, defeating the Wolfpack on Oct. 13, 2001 in Raleigh and on Aug 30, 2008 in Richmond, Virginia.


Kansas and Missouri State are meeting for the 27th time on Saturday morning in Raleigh. Missouri State holds a 21-6 series advantage, but since 1990 the Jayhawks are 4-1 against the Bears. The two teams representing bordering states last met during KU’s run to the 2015 final four when Kansas swept Missouri State, 3-0, on Sept. 19, 2015 in Lawrence. Missouri State would later qualify for the NCAA Tournament and play its first-round match in Lawrence, losing to Missouri in the first round; Kansas went on to sweep MU in the second round.


Ray Bechard is in his 20th season as head coach of Kansas volleyball this season. In his tenure as the leader of the program, Bechard has become the winning coach in program history while charting unprecedented territory. Bechard has recruited and coached all nine of KU’s AVCA All-Americans. The western Kansas native 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).

Progress under Bechard
1998: Bechard’s first season at KU
2000: Undefeated in nonconference
2003: KU’s first NCAA Tournament appearance, first NCAA Tournament win, first 20-win season since 1991, First AVCA All-American (Josi Lima)
2004: NCAA Tournament appearance, undefeated in nonconference
2005: NCAA Tournament appearance
2012: First national ranking in the final AVCA poll of the season (No. 25), top-10 finish in the NCAA RPI (No. 9), first NCAA Tournament top-16 seed (No. 11)
2013: First NCAA Tournament regional semifinal appearance
2015: First NCAA Tournament reginal final and national semifinal appearances, first first-team AVCA All-Americans (Kelsie Payne, Ainise Havili), highest ranking in the final AVCA poll of the season (No. 4), first win over a No. 1-ranked team (USC)
2016: First Big 12 Conference title


Kansas begins the 2017 campaign having won 26 of the last 27 matches against nonconference opponents during the regular season. That stretch includes winning eight of the last nine 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 to Purdue on Sept. 16, 2016.

The Jayhawks have gone undefeated through the nonconference portion of the regular season four times (2000, 2002, 2004 and 2015) under head coach Ray Bechard and are 180-30 (.857) against nonconference teams during the regular season since his arrival.

Nonconference Tourney Titles Since 2014 (MVP)
2014 – Jayhawk Classic (Cassie Wait)
2015 – Arkansas Invitational (Ainise Havili)
2015 – Kansas Invitational (Cassie Wait)
2015 – Pistol Pete’s Showdown (Madison Rigdon)
2015 – Jayhawk Classic (Tiana Dockery)
2016 – Bulldog Invitational (Madison Rigdon)
2016 – Kansas Invitational (Kelsie Payne)
2016 – Bluejay Invitational (Madison Rigdon)


During the Ray Bechard era, the Jayhawks are 13-6 in road openers, including four-straight wins. For the first time since the 2008 and 2009 seasons, KU will open the regular-season with a true road contest in back-to-back years – at Mississippi State in 2016 and at NC State in 2017.

Last Four Road Openers
2013: at Arizona (W, 3-1)
2014: at Denver (W, 3-1)
2015: at Arkansas (W, 3-1)
2016: at Mississippi State (W, 3-0) *
2017: NC State (Friday) *

* – Also the regular-season opener


Kansas will play in every contiguous U.S. time zone during nonconference play this season. The Jayhawks travel to North Carolina State (ET) to open the regular season, Utah Valley (MT) in the second week and Santa Clara (PT) in the fourth and final week of nonconference play. KU also hosts four matches in Lawrence (CT) in the third week of the regular season.

Since the start of the 2015 season, Kansas has the highest winning percentage in the country (.905). The Jayhawks are 57-6 in the last three seasons and join Nebraska as the only two programs in NCAA Division I volleyball with a winning percentage at least 90 percent or higher. Fellow Big 12 member Texas is tied for fifth on the list with a .877 winning percentage the last two seasons.

NCAA Division I Winning Percentage Since 2015
1. KANSAS: 57-6 (.905)
2. Nebraska: 63-7 (.900)
3. WKU: 62-7 (.899)
4. Washington: 60-8 (.882)
t-5. BYU: 57-8 (.877)
t-5. Dayton: 57-8 (.877)
t-5. Texas: 57-8 (.877)

In the last five seasons since 2012, Kansas has simply been one the elite programs in the country with five-straight …

  • NCAA Tournament appearances, including a final four in 2015
  • Top-15 finishes in the NCAA RPI, including a No. 5 finish in 2016
  • 20-win seasons, including one 30-win season in 2015
  • Home winning percentages over .800, including a .933 clip in the last two seasons

Five-straight top-15 NCAA RPI finishes


Kansas returns 84 percent of last season’s total points scored, including 86 percent of the team’s kills. The Jayhawks return six players with starting experience and lost two perennial starters in All-American libero Cassie Wait and four-year starting middle blocker Tayler Soucie. Right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, setter Ainise Havili, outside hitters Madison Rigdon and Jada Burse, and middle blockers Kayla Cheadle and Zoe Hill all received substantial playing time as starters in 2016.

Percentage of KU Stats Returning from 2016
Kills: 86%
Assists: 90%
Digs: 64%
Block Assists: 73%
Solo Blocks: 68%
Aces: 85%
Points: 84%


Kansas defeated UMKC, 4-0, in exhibition play on Aug. 18 at a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The Jayhawks jumped out to dominating leads of 12-2 in the first set and 14-4 in the second set and held the Roos to a .063 hitting percentage for the match. Kelsie Payne led KU with 10 kills, while Ainise Havili recorded a team-high 12 digs and also set the pace for the offense with 38 assists. Allie Nelson started at libero, recording 11 digs. KU and UMKC will co-host the NCAA Championship at Sprint Center in December.


KU’s stellar 28-2 record at home the last two seasons will be put to the test with a home-opening week that will prove to be one of the most challenging weeks for any team in the nation this season. The Jayhawks’ four home nonconference matches include three nationally-ranked teams that advanced in the NCAA Tournament last season and two preseason favorites to win their respective conferences.

The week starts with a Labor Day matchup against No. 14 Kentucky on Monday, Sept. 4. It will be the second meeting between Kansas and Kentucky and the first since a neutral-site meeting in 1998. The Kansas Invitational kicks off with Ohio Valley Conference preseason favorite Belmont on Friday, Sept. 8, followed by No. 25 Purdue later that night. The event concludes with a top-10 matchup between the 8th-ranked Jayhawks and No. 9 Creighton on Saturday night. Last season Kansas finished with a 27-3 record – Purdue and Creighton accounted for two of those three losses.


For the second-consecutive season KU’s home court, Horejsi Family Athletics Center (1,300), has sold out its allotment of season tickets. Fans hoping to attend matches this season can visit StubHub, the ‘Official Fan to Fan Ticket Marketplace’ of the Kansas Jayhawks.


Sophomore outside hitter Patricia Montero will not compete during the 2017 season due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear in her left knee which occurred during preseason practice. The Puerto Rico native was primed for a productive season as “nobody was playing as well as she was during our two-a-days,” head coach Ray Bechard said during media day on Wednesday, Aug. 16.


All-Americans Kelsie Payne, Ainise Havili and Madison Rigdon are currently carving their legacies in Kansas volleyball history, but with the 2017-18 academic year set to begin it is a great reminder of those who pioneered and paved the way for future female student-athletes to don the Crimson and Blue. The opportunity for women to compete for the University of Kansas was solidified in 1968. This school year, then, marks the 50th season of intercollegiate women’s athletics at KU, and the Department of Athletics will take the year to celebrate this milestone. During the pregame warmup, KU will sport a commemorative T-shirt to honor the 50-year evolution of women’s sports in the athletics department. These commemorative T-shirts will be worn throughout the year by all female Jayhawk student-athletes prior to each competition. In addition, several events are being scheduled and planned, including KU volleyball’s alumni reunion on Saturday, Sept. 9 before the Creighton match.


Kansas was voted second with three first-place votes in the Big 12 volleyball preseason coaches’ poll this season. The Jayhawks totaled 59 points in the poll, just three shy of league favorite and the nation’s preseason top-ranked team, Texas. KU’s three first-place votes in the preseason poll are the most in program history. The Jayhawks were also picked to finished second before the 2014 and 2016 seasons – both times with one first-place vote.


For the second-straight season, senior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne has been tabbed as the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year by the conference coaches. In 2016, Payne lived up to her preseason billing, becoming the first Jayhawk to earn Big 12 Player of the Year honors after leading Kansas to its first-ever Big 12 title. In addition to preseason player of the year honors, Payne and senior All-American setter Ainise Havili and senior All-American outside hitter Madison Rigdon were unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.


Kansas returns three All-Americans from its 2016 Big 12 championship team, including senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne (first-team), senior setter Ainise Havili (third team) and senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon (honorable mention). Graduated libero Cassie Wait was the fourth Jayhawk named as an All-American last season, earning honorable mention distinction.


Senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne (2015, 2016), Texas right-side hitter Ebony Nwanebu (2013, 2016) and Penn State middle blocker Haleigh Washington (2015, 2016) are the only three returning players in the country with two appearances on the AVCA All-America First Team. Senior setter Ainise Havili also multiple All-America nods, but just one appearance on the first team – honorable mention in 2014, first-team in 2015 and third-team in 2016.


Entering the 2017 season, senior All-Americans Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili are on pace to break KU’s career kills and assists records, respectively. Havili begins the season with 3,914 assists – close to becoming the fourth all-time Jayhawk with at least 4,000 assists. Andi Rozum (2002-05) currently holds KU’s career assists record with 4,772.

Last season Payne became the 15th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 kills and looks to take the next step this season. She enters 2017 with 1,078 kills and needs 405 more to tie the current record of 1,078, held by Josi Lima (2002-05). Payne’s .352 hitting percentage is currently tops in KU’s record books.

KU Career Kills
1. Josi Lima (2002-05): 1,483
14. Kelsie Payne (2014-present): 1,078

KU Career Assists
1. Andi Rozum (2002-05): 4,772
4. Ainise Havili (2014-present): 3,914

KU Career Hitting Percentage
1. Kelsie Payne (2014-present): .352


Senior All-Americans Madison Rigdon and Kelsie Payne competed for USA Volleyball’s Collegiate National Team program during the summer of 2017. Rigdon played for the 12-player roster that toured Thailand, May 19-30, and competed in a series of exhibition matches. Payne played on the European Tour roster, winning the gold medal at the European Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia, July 11-14. Both Rigdon and Payne will see their USA Volleyball coaches as opposing coaches during the 2017 season.


Kansas began its offseason training with a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, during spring break to compete against the University of Hawaii on March 21. The Jayhawks had two full days of preparation before taking on the Rainbow Wahine, who played without recently retired hall-of-fame head coach Dave Shoji for the first time in over 40 years. KU was edged by Hawaii in five sets (25-20, 20-25, 25-20, 27-25, 15-11) despite holding match point in the fourth set, which featured 14 ties and six lead changes. Ainise Havili recorded 43 assists and three kills, including a setters dump to give Kansas match point in the fourth set. Hawaii rallied to force a fifth set and Kansas started Ainise Havili, Kelsie Payne, Madison Rigdon and Kayla Cheadle in all five sets, and rotated position players for its second outside hitter, second middle blocker and libero positions. 


The Jayhawks finished the 2016 season as Big 12 Champions for the first time in program history with a 27-3 overall record and 15-1 mark during conference play. After advancing to the NCAA Final Four in 2015, Kansas followed-up with another flourishing campaign featuring two winning streaks longer than 10 matches, a top-10 ranking throughout the regular season (peaking at No. 4), and the program’s highest seed in the NCAA Tournament (No. 5).

The squad was led by four AVCA All-Americans in junior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne (first team), junior setter Ainise Havili (third team), senior libero Cassie Wait (honorable mention) and junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon (honorable mention). Kansas also nearly swept the Big 12 postseason awards, earning the league’s Player of the Year (Payne), Setter of the Year (Havili), Libero of the Year (Wait) and Coach of the Year (Ray Bechard).


Kansas visits Orem, Utah, for the Wolverine Classic, hosted by Utah Valley next weekend. KU starts with Utah Valley on Thursday, Aug. 31, followed by Long Beach State on Friday, Sept. 1 and Montana on Saturday, Sept. 2. All of KU’s matches during the three-day event will be video streamed live by FloVolleyball.




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