Big 12 Champs earn No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament

Bracket NCAA Championship Bracket | Printable Bracket (.pdf) 

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas volleyball earned a No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA Championship and will host the first and second rounds for the fifth consecutive season, the NCAA committee announced on Sunday night. The Jayhawks’ seed is the highest in program history after finishing the season as the outright Big 12 Conference champions with a 26-2 record and winners of 14-straight matches entering postseason play.

Kansas finished the 2015 season as NCAA semifinalists and will begin their quest back to the Final Four when facing Samford on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Central at Horejsi Family Athletics Center. Northern Iowa and Creighton – both 2016 KU opponents – will face on Thursday at 4 p.m. Central. Winners of the Thursday matches will play on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Central for a spot in the round of 16.

All three matches in Lawrence will be televised by ESPN3, which is available on or the ESPN app. Audio coverage in matches involving Kansas can be heard online at

The Jayhawks are regular-season champions of the Big 12 Conference, which includes six teams in the 64-team bracket – No. 4 Texas, No. 5 Kansas, No. 14 Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State and TCU.

The three other seeded teams in KU’s NCAA Championship region include No. 4 Texas, No. 12 Michigan and No. 13 BYU.

NCAA Championship First & Second Rounds
Lawrence, Kan. | Horejsi Family Athletics Center

Thursday, Dec. 1 (First Round)
Creighton vs. Northern Iowa – 4 p.m. CST
No. 5 Kansas vs. Samford – 6:30 p.m. CST

Friday, Dec. 2 (Second Round)
Second Round match – 6:30 p.m. CST  


Kansas head coach Ray Bechard

On not being a top-four seed:
“You split hairs between the fourth and fifth seed, probably, but let’s really rejoice in being the highest seed in Kansas volleyball history: a five seed. With the type of regular season we have had, hopefully we can keep that momentum going into a really strong NCAA tournament.”

On hosting:
“We’re as thrilled as can be to host. We’re excited that six Big 12 conference teams got in, six out of nine. That’s got to be the highest percentage of any league I would guess. Then we have three hosting first rounds: K-State, Kansas and Texas. We went through the league with a 15-1 record. So six teams in, we beat five of those teams twice, beat another one of those teams once. I think we’re prepared for what lies ahead.”

On facing Samford in the first round:
“We played Furman in the first-round last year and they’re from the same league so it’s a league that produces good teams every year and we’ll have to be ready to go.”

On already playing two of these teams this season:
“Creighton has won 20 in a row. They started of 6-6 and now they’re 26-6. Northern Iowa had every opportunity to beat Wichita State at home the other night. We didn’t see Northern Iowa at their strongest either – they had a player out. Creighton’s better, Northern Iowa is better, but the Jayhawks are much better than we were at that time of the year also.”

On what needs to improve:
“I think we need to let go of the fact that we don’t need to try and worry about holding on and winning the Big 12 anymore, because that was getting to be a heavy burden. You could tell in our team that we labored a little with that expectation and that pressure. So now hopefully we can let that go and be renewed, be refreshed and play our very best volleyball of the year.”

On what the team learned from last year:
“That you stick your nose in there and you grind it out. If we were worried about our seed last year – if a nine seed can get to the final four last year, why can’t a five advance as well? That’s the way we’ll take it. There’s things we do better this year, there’s things we don’t do quite as well, but we know that we’ve got to be playing our very best at the end of the year and we were doing that last year against Furman, Missouri, Loyola Marymount and USC. We were really good. Even at Nebraska last year. It was a great stretch. I feel we’re poised to do the same thing this year if we can get some good work in this week. We’ll be focused.”

Junior RS Kelsie Payne

On her outlook for the tournament:
“We’re taking it one match at a time. Samford first, then whoever is after that. If we can win the first two and make it to regionals, then that would be awesome.”

On using last year’s tournament experience for this year:
“Definitely just taking it one match at a time. I think with tournament play it is really easy to look ahead to what’s next, but if you take your opponent that’s in front of you and give them everything you have, I think that’s the best way to be successful.”

On what this year’s team does better than last year’s:
“I think we’re a lot better defensively, last year I think we were more of an offensive threat, we were more balanced. This year we’re still balanced, but I think we have more of a grit, we don’t let balls to the floor and we’re better at the net too.”

On what Coach Bechard has said to prepare them:
“Train like a champion. Every day there are things we can do to make ourselves better on and off the court. Whether it’s taking care of school or taking care of our bodies, just making sure that we’re giving ourselves the best chance to compete.”

On if winning the Big 12 title is a weight lifted off their shoulders:
“I think once we had beaten Texas we knew we had a good chance to share the Big 12. Every match after that was like, ‘we have to win this one, we have to win this one.’ Now that it’s over, it’s a weight lifted. It’s a great accomplishment by our team. Now it’s time to move on to a new season.”

Senior L Cassie Wait

On her outlook for the tournament:
“It’s super exciting just to get to play more games in Horejsi and being a senior, that’s really special. We love our atmosphere, we love our fans, and we love the Jayhawk family. Getting to play more games in Horejsi is really exciting.”

On playing other teams with familiar players:
“It’s fun. The volleyball world can get really small. We come from all different parts of the nation and it’s a lot of fun to have those connections and to get excited for teams because you know a past club player that you played with or a fellow Big 12 team or a team you beat earlier in the season. It’s those kinds of fun things that you can reminisce over.”

On the comparison between last year’s tournament and this year’s:
“I think it’s kind of the same feeling. We’re just ready to get the opportunity to play and get after it in practice tomorrow to prepare ourselves.”

On what she learned from last year:
“I think it’s definitely just knowing that we have each opportunity, each game to go out and control what we can control and give ourselves the best opportunity to play and to win.”

Senior MB Tayler Soucie

On having additional home games:
“It’s really exciting to get to play at home another time. We have the greatest fans, they really get Horejsi pumping. It’s really exciting to get to play there one more time – hopefully twice.”

On her initial reaction to being a No. 5 seed:
“It’s exciting, it’s the highest in program history, you can’t ask for more than that. It’s another opportunity to play so we’re excited.”

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