RCW: Sport Spotlight 4.4 (Volleyball)
— Kansas Volleyball (@KUVolleyball) September 15, 2017
A post shared by Kansas Volleyball (@kuvolleyball) on Sep 16, 2017 at 9:56am PDT
As Kansas volleyball begins Big 12 Conference play this weekend, it’s a good time to look back at a successful nonconference season and the long-term excellence for the Jayhawks during pre-conference play.
Since head coach Ray Bechard arrived in Lawrence in 1998, Kansas has won nearly 86 percent of its regular-season nonconference matches with a 191-32 record. In each of Bechard’s 20 years, KU has not lost more than three pre-conference matches, including undefeated marks in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2015.
Although 2017 wasn’t one of those undefeated pre-conference campaigns, entering the weekend with an 11-2 record, the Jayhawks have been battle-tested unlike any other KU team before them.
This season, for the first time in program history, the Jayhawks enter Big 12 play with multiple wins over top-25 teams already under their belt. Through the years, Kansas has notched quality wins over ranked opponents — No. 6 Minnesota in 2011 and No. 25 Wisconsin in 2013 — but KU’s wins over No. 17 Purdue and No. 13 Kentucky this September make up the most wins against ranked opponents before conference play.
To put that in perspective, during KU’s Final Four run in 2015 it wasn’t until the NCAA Tournament that the Jayhawks earned a win over a top-25 opponent.
Even the two road bumps on KU’s noncon slate brought to light the astounding success Kansas has cultivated in recent years.
Kansas’ bitter three-set loss to No. 9 Creighton on Sept. 9 was the first time Kansas had been swept at home in 90 matches, back when No. 16 Iowa State dealt a sweep at Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Sept. 28, 2011. And a five-set road loss at Santa Clara that went late into the night (Central time) broke a 44-match winning streak for Kansas against unranked nonconference opponents during the regular season.
This weekend brings a clean slate for the reigning Big 12 champions as the conference season begins with the Dillons Sunflower Showdown on Sunday, Sept. 24 at noon on ESPN2. The Jayhawks take a 14-match Big 12 winning streak to Manhattan, where they have won five-straight times.