Kansas and Kentucky meet in top-25 Labor Day tilt

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Ninth-ranked Kansas volleyball returns home on Monday to face No. 13 Kentucky at 1 p.m. inside Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The match between Jayhawks and Wildcats on Labor Day will mark the first of three matches against top-25 teams in KU’s home-opening week.

The Jayhawks (6-0) begin the week as one of the most potent offenses in the country, leading the Big 12 and ranking sixth in the nation in kill per set (15.75), while Kentucky (5-1) visits Lawrence for the first time after a four-set win over No. 18 USC on Saturday in Omaha.


• Kansas has started the season 6-0 for the third-straight season after winning the Wolverine Invitational title in Orem, Utah over the weekend.
• KU is 18-1 in home openers under head coach Ray Bechard.
• Kansas and Kentucky meet for just the second time on Monday; UK won the first meeting in 1998.
• KU is ranked No. 9 and UK is ranked No. 13 in the latest AVCA preseason coaches’ poll. The poll will be updated minutes before Monday’s first serve.
• Kansas leads the Big 12 in hitting percentage (277), kills per set (15.57) and aces per set (14.57).
• The Jayhawks have the highest winning percentage in the country since the start of the 2015 season (.913).
• 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 at 358-232 (.607).
• 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.
• Madison Rigdon is 30 kills away from becoming the 16th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career kills.
• Since 2012, KU is 2-1 against top-25 nonconference teams at home.


Jayhawk Television Network (JTV), powered by Spectrum Sports, will televise Monday’s match. JTV’s telecast will be available online via ESPN3. Leif Lisec and Jill Dorsey-Hall have the call. Audio steaming of the match will be available on KUAthletics.com/radio with Nick Lewis calling play-by-play.


The Jayhawks are 23-1 in home openers since 1993, including an 18-1 (.944) mark under head coach Ray Bechard, since 1998. KU’s only home-opening loss during that period came in five sets to Arkansas in 2013 after a string of 20-straight home-opening wins.


KU and UK meet for just the second time in program history on Monday. The teams first met on a neutral site in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Sept. 12, 1998 during Ray Bechard’s first season as head coach at Kansas. Kentucky won the side-out scoring era match in three sets (16-14, 15-7, 16-14). It marked Bechard’s first loss at KU after a 6-0 start to the season; the Jayhawks finished 10-2 in nonconference play in 1998.


Kansas improved to 6-0 by winning the Wolverine Invitational title in Orem, Utah (Aug. 31 – Sept. 2). The tournament, hosted by Utah Valley, marked KU’s 10th nonconference tournament title in the last 11 attempts. Senior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne was named the MVP, while outside hitters Madison Rigdon and Jada Burse were all-tournament honorees. The Jayhawks defeated Utah Valley in straight sets, five-time national champion Long Beach State in four sets and Montana in three.  


The Jayhawks are off to a 6-0 start for the third-straight time and 10th time overall during head coach Ray Bechard’s tenure at Kansas. The best start to a season was 19-0 during KU’s unprecedented 2015 season, which ended in the NCAA Final Four.

6-0 Starts under Bechard
Season: Start / Finish
2017: 6-0
2016: 10-0 / 27-3
2015: 19-0 / 30-3
2011: 6-0 / 15-14
2010: 7-0 / 17-14
2004: 8-0 / 19-12
2002: 8-0 / 19-10
2001: 10-0 / 16-15
2000: 9-0 / 15-14
1998: 6-0 / 15-17


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).

KU 19.0-plus team blocks during 25-point rally-scoring era
19.0 vs. Missouri State; 8/26/17
20.5 at Oklahoma; 11/29/14


Senior setter Ainise Havili has an assist-dig double-double in each of KU’s six matches this season. The Jayhawks combine for four kill-dig double-doubles this season with senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon accounting for three and senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne with one.  

Ainise Havili
54 assists, 22 digs; at NC State, Aug. 25
43 assists, 18 digs; vs. Missouri State, Aug. 26
63 assists, 14 digs; at NC State, Aug. 26
39 assists, 12 digs; at Utah Valley, Aug. 31
52 assists, 14 digs; vs. Long Beach State, Sept. 1
33 assists, 10 digs; vs. Montana, Sept. 2

Madison Rigdon
17 kills, 15 digs; at NC State, Aug. 25
14 kills, 10 digs; vs. Missouri State, Aug. 26
17 kills, 13 digs; vs. Long Beach State, Sept. 1

Kelsie Payne
23 kills, 15 digs; vs. Missouri State, Aug. 26


Kansas won the season-opening Wolfpack Invitational hosted by NC State (). Ainise Havili posted 63 assists, 14 digs and three blocks while directing KU’s offense to a .350 hitting percentage in the rematch against the Wolfpack. Havili earned tournament MVP honors, while first-year starting libero Allie Nelson and All-American Kelsie Payne were all-tournament honorees.


The new AVCA Coaches’ Poll will update minutes before the first serve between Kansas and Kentucky. On Aug. 28, Kansas received a No. 9 ranking in the poll. The reigning Big 12 champion Jayhawks have been ranked 33-straight times in the AVCA poll, including 27 of the last 28 polls in the top-10. KU began the season ranked No. 8 in the preseason poll.

The Jayhawks will face five teams ranked in the current top-25, including No. 4 Texas, No. 7 Creighton, No. 13 Kentucky, No. 21 Purdue and No. 25 Iowa State.


Kansas is 4-6 against ranked nonconference opponents since 2012, including a 2-1 mark at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Matches against ranked nonconference teams since 2012



at Creighton

L, 1-3



at Wisconsin

W, 3-2




vs. Washington

L, 0-3




W, 3-1




vs. Penn State

L, 0-3





W, 3-0




vs. USC

W, 3-2




vs. Nebraska

L, 1-3




at Purdue

L, 1-3





L, 2-3







Senior All-American setter Ainise 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.

It is the third Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week nod for the two-time reigning Big 12 Setter of the Year.


Kansas paces the Big 12 in kills per set (15.57), hitting percentage (.277) and assists per set (14.57). Senior All-Americans Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne lead the Big 12 in assists per set (12.35) and kills per set (4.65), respectively. Sophomore libero Allie Nelson leads the conference in total digs (103). Senior middle blocker Taylor Alexander recorded seven blocks against NC State (Aug. 26), which tied for a Big 12 match-high during the opening weekend. Payne (5.13) and senior All-American outside hitter Madison Rigdon (4.72) rank first and third, respectively, in points per set.


Kansas volleyball head coach Ray Bechard announced on Aug. 29 the hiring of former setter Maggie Anderson ’16 to his staff as the director of volleyball operations. Anderson rejoins the Kansas volleyball program after a five-year playing career from 2012 to 2016, in which she helped the Jayhawks to 130 victories, a berth in the 2015 Final Four and the 2016 Big 12 Conference title.

Anderson will help with the day-to-day operations of the program, including but not limited to travel arrangements, managing schedules, organizing summer camps and K Club relations. The Lincoln, Nebraska, native was a three-time member of the Academic All-Big 12 First Team during her career at Kansas. Anderson graduated in December 2016 with a degree in supply chain management from the School of Business. She returns to KU after full-time experience as a corporate recruiter.


Kansas will play in every contiguous U.S. time zone during nonconference play this season. The Jayhawks traveled 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.


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 unprecedented territory. 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).

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 has won 32 of the last 33 matches against nonconference opponents during the regular season. That stretch includes winning 10 of the last 11 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 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 186-30 (.861) 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)
2017 – Wolfpack Invitational (Ainise Havili)
2017 – Wolverine Invitational (Kelsie Payne)


Senior All-Americans Kelsie Payne, Ainise Havili and Madison Rigdon are on pace to rewrite KU’s record books.

Havili stands third in career assists (4,197). 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.

Payne ranks first in career hitting percentage (.353) and eighth in career kills (1,185). Last season Payne became the 15th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 kills and looks to take the next step this season. She now needs 298 more kills to tie the current record of 1,483 held by Josi Lima (2002-05).

Rigdon ranks 16th in career kills (970). She is on pace to become the 16th Jayhawk to reach the century mark in career kills this week. The Pflugerville, Texas, native enters the week needing 30 kills to reach 1,000.


Since the start of the 2015 season, Kansas has the highest winning percentage in the country (.913). The Jayhawks are 63-6 in the last three seasons are the only program in NCAA Division I volleyball with a winning percentage at least .900 or higher during that period.

NCAA Division I Winning Percentage Since 2015
Through Sept. 2
1. KANSAS: 63-6 (.913)
3. BYU: 63-8 (.887)
2. WKU: 67-9 (.882)
4. Nebraska: 66-9 (.880)
5. Washington: 65-9 (.878)
6. Texas: 61-9 (.871)


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.


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. Montero underwent successful reconstructive surgery in late August.


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 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 has 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.


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 setter’s dump to give Kansas match point in the fourth set. Hawaii rallied to force a fifth set and Kansas started 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).


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 underway 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.


The Kansas Invitational (Sept. 8-9) kicks off with Ohio Valley Conference preseason favorite Belmont on Friday, Sept. 8, followed by No. 21 Purdue later that night. The event concludes with a top-10 matchup between the ninth-ranked Jayhawks and No. 8 Creighton on Saturday night.





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