Four Jayhawks named AVCA All-Americans, led by Payne and Havili’s back-to-back honors
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four Jayhawks were bestowed with AVCA All-America honors on Wednesday, led by back-to-back AVCA All-America First Team honors going to junior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne. Junior setter Ainise Havili took home her third-straight All-America nod as a third team honoree, while junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon and senior libero Cassie Wait were given honorable mention recognition.
Kansas’ four honorees join Florida (five), Minnesota (five), Nebraska (six), Stanford (four), Texas (four), and Wisconsin (four) as the only teams with four or more student-athletes represented on the AVCA All-America Teams. The quartet of Jayhawks guided fourth-ranked Kansas (27-3, 15-1 Big 12) to its first-ever conference title, two winning streaks longer than 10 matches, a No. 4 national ranking, and the program’s highest seed in the NCAA Championship (No. 5).
“This is a great day for our program,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “Over the last few years we have been fortunate enough to be represented by student-athletes honored at the highest level. For Kelsie and Ainise to earn back-to-back All-America honors is noteworthy because our opponents are giving them their best shot from a game-plan perspective, and they both still perform at the highest level. Madison and Cassie have also had terrific seasons and we are excited that they can be honored in this way. “
Payne, a native of Austin, Texas, became KU’s first-ever Big 12 Player of the Year after helping lead the Jayhawks to the outright Big 12 regular-season title and ranking top-three in kills per set (4.07) and points per set (4.77) during conference action. After a breakout 2015 All-American campaign, Payne’s dynamic offensive talent wasn’t going to catch the conference off guard as she entered 2016 with Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year expectations. Payne lived up to those expectations, and more, while she adjusted to becoming a six-rotation player for the first time in her career – finishing the season with eight double-doubles, five 20-kill performances and 18 matches with at least three blocks.
“This honor speaks to Kelsie’s efforts to becoming more of a complete player,” Bechard said. “She battled some adversity this season with an injury and modifying her role on the team, but she still performed at the highest level. In addition to her terminal offensive ability, defensively, her blocking numbers went up significantly and she has adjusted well to a six-rotation role more than 85 percent of the time.”
Havili was named to the third team after earning first team honors with Payne in 2015. The Fort Worth, Texas native also earned Big 12 Setter of the Year for the second-straight season in 2016. During conference play, Havili averaged 10.71 assists per set and helped lead the Jayhawks to the second-best conference hitting percentage. Havili features seven matches with 50 or more assists and has a team-high 16 double-doubles, including nine-straight to end the season.
Wait earns AVCA All-America honors for the first time in her storied career as an honorable mention. The Gardner, Kansas native became the Big 12 coaches’ unanimous decision for Big 12 Libero of the Year after leading the Big 12 in digs per set (5.11). A first-year student in KU’s School of Law, Wait finished her collegiate career ranked second in career digs at Kansas (1,958), is a three-time 2016 Big 12 Player of the Week (Sept. 5, Sept. 12, Oct. 17), and a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree.
Rigdon also earns AVCA All-America recognition for the first time, checking in as an honorable mention. The Pflugerville, Texas native represented Kansas on the All-Big 12 First Team after her most productive season as a Jayhawk, which featured two nonconference tournament MVP honors (Bulldog Classic, Bluejay Invitational) while leading the Big 12 in aces per set (0.49). Rigdon set season career highs in across the board in kills per set (3.50), hitting percentage (.228), digs per set (2.27) and service aces (0.49).
The AVCA All-America awards will be presented Thursday, Dec. 16, in Columbus, Ohio at the AVCA All-America Banquet, an event held in conjunction with the 2016 AVCA Convention.
KU’s AVCA All-Americans
Chelsea Albers [2013 Honorable Mention, 2014 Honorable Mention]
Ainise Havili [2014 Honorable Mention, 2015 First Team, 2016 Third Team]
Caroline Jarmoc [2012 Second Team, 2013 Third Team]
Josi Lima [2003 Honorable Mention]
Sara McClinton [2013 Honorable Mention]
Erin McNorton [2013 Honorable Mention]
Kelsie Payne [2015 First Team, 2016 First Team]
Madison Rigdon [2016 Honorable Mention]
Cassie Wait [2016 Honorable Mention]
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