Kansas hosts impromptu series with UNC Greensboro this weekend
In an unforeseen turn of events that the Hurricane Florence forced, the Kansas volleyball team (4-4) turned a road trip to North Carolina into a pair of home matches against UNC Greensboro (6-4) this weekend at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
First serve for Friday’s match against the Spartans is at 5 p.m., followed by Saturday’s rematch at 6 p.m.
Both matches will be video streamed live on ESPN+, powered by the Jayhawk Television Network, and on the Jayhawk IMG Radio Network through KUAthletics.com/radio.
- The Jayhawks enter the fourth weekend of the regular season with an even 4-4 record.
- Kansas and UNC Greensboro are meeting for the first time in program history.
- The Jayhawks have a 5-0 record against current members of UNC Greensboro’s conference, the Southern Conference. SoCon teams Furman and Samford were KU’s first-round opponents during the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Tournaments, respectively.
- The Jayhawks and Spartans were originally scheduled to play in the Tussle in the Triad this weekend, along with Elon and High Point, before the devastating forecast of Hurricane Florence forced the event to be cancelled. High Point rescheduled its weekend to compete in the Pitt Invite in Pittsburgh. Elon will not play matches this weekend.
- Kansas ranks 35th in the nation in total team blocks (87.0).
- Kansas has played five five-set matches with a 3-2 record entering this weekend’s series against UNC Greensboro. Dating back to last season, seven of KU’s last 10 matches have lasted five sets.
- Kansas has played in front of a sell-out crowd at Horejsi Family Athletics Center for 27-straight matches. The Jayhawks boast a .820 winning percentage in Horejsi since 2012.
LAST TIME OUT
- Kansas went 1-2 during the Kansas Invitational last week.
- Junior middle blocker Zoe Hill was named to the Kansas Invitational All-Tournament Team after averaging 2.58 kills per set on a .349 hitting percentage with 1.33 blocks per set during the event’s three matches.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
- Junior outside hitter Ashley Smith leads Kansas in total points (107.5), averaging career-bests of 2.78 kills per set and 0.39 blocks per set this season.
- Junior middle blocker Zoe Hill leads KU in blocks per set (1.21) and hitting percentage (.327).
- Junior outside hitter Jada Burse has reached double-figure kills in six-straight matches, including a season-high 15 kills against LMU (Sept. 8) last week.
- Freshman Lacey Angello leads the Jayhawks with 3.56 digs per set and has started as the primary libero in six of eight matches.
- Freshman Camryn Ennis has started the last five matches and leads KU in aces (six).
- Junior Allie Nelson averages 2.62 digs per set with two starts at libero this season.
- Senior Gabby Simpson (4.13 assists per set), Ennis (5.41) and sophomore Annika Carlson (5.33) have shared setting roles during the first eight matches depending on the Jayhawks’ offensive set. Simpson has started seven of eight matches this season, also totaling 45 kills and 23 blocks. Ennis made her collegiate debut during the Bluegrass Battle in Kentucky (Sept. 7-8) and already has four assist-dig double-doubles. Carlson was the starting setter for the first two matches of the season, including her first-career start at Arkansas (Aug. 24).
SETTING THE STAGE
- KU’s three returning starters from 2017 are Burse, Hill and junior Allie Nelson. Last season, Nelson led KU in digs per set (4.36), Hill led the Jayhawks in blocks per set (0.98) and Burse was KU’s third-leading kills producer (2.48 kills per set).
- KU’s lone senior is the left-handed hitter/setter Gabby Simpson, a transfer who redshirted during her first season with KU in 2017. The Colorado Springs native was an All-Pac 12 honoree at Colorado in 2015 and 2016, and has eight career triple-doubles.
- Burse and Simpson are KU’s are 2018 Preseason All-Big 12 honorees.
- Montero and Smith are KU’s only fourth-year players on the 2018 roster. The duo redshirted during KU’s magical run to the Final Four in 2015.
- Kansas returns seven letter winners from the 2017 season, as well as 33 percent of its total points (653.5 returning / 1,330.0 lost), seven percent of its assists (103 / 1,451) and 67 percent of its digs (1,221 / 624).
- Included in KU’s production lost from the 2017 season are three AVCA All-Americans — four-year starting setter Ainise Havili, right-side hitter Kelsie Payne and outside hitter Madison Rigdon. All three are still playing volleyball. Payne with a professional team in Brazil (E.C. Pinheiros), while Havili and Rigdon are beach volleyball teammates as graduate transfers at Arizona.
- Last season, Kansas posted a 22-8 overall record and an 11-5 record during Big 12 play to earn a sixth-straight berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks ended the 2017 season receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Poll, ending a stretch of 45-straight appearances in the top-25.
- KU has finished each of the last six seasons with at least a top-20 RPI ranking (No. 20 in 2017).
- The Jayhawks will play 10 matches against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams this season.
- The 2018 season is the 20th and final season of KU’s home court — Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The facility will be torn down and rebuilt as the new Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena after the season.
- For the third-consecutive season, season tickets for KU’s home matches at Horejsi Family Athletics Center are sold out.
- Kansas has played in front of 27-straight home sellout crowds entering the weekend.
- This is KU’s 43rd season of intercollegiate volleyball and 21st under head coach Ray Bechard. In his time with the Crimson and Blue, Bechard has compiled a 378-244 (.608) record and guided Kansas to all of its nine NCAA Tournament appearances. Bechard is the winningest coach in program history.
- Coach Bechard has a pair of first-year KU assistants in Billy Ebel and Maggie Bowen. Ebel is a nationally-respected coach and former men’s player at Ball State who comes to Lawrence after a five-year stint at Lipscomb. Bowen is a former setter at KU under Coach Bechard and last season was the Jayhawks’ director of volleyball operations.
Kansas head coach Ray Bechard
On the unique situation of modifying KU’s schedule to avoid Hurricane Florence …
“When you schedule about six months to a year ago, you don’t think, ‘Well, what are we going to do if a once-in-a-lifetime storm event comes along.’ But we have had great communication with UNC Greensboro leading up to this weekend. We worked really hard. They worked really hard. Together — both administrations and both coaching staffs — really tried to do all they could to make this happen. We are very fortunate to get a couple of matches out of this weekend. Losing three matches would have been more than 10 percent of our schedule. Hats-off to UNC Greensboro for making it work and hats-off to our administration here for creating an opportunity for them to come.”
On other volleyball postponements …
“After 9/11, we postponed a match and rescheduled it. 9/11 was on a Monday and we had a Wednesday match that was rescheduled. Beyond that, I can’t remember any weather-related events that affected our schedule since I’ve been at KU.”
On UNC Greensboro …
“They are going to have a great year. They have played some good high-level programs already — Duke, UNC, Michigan State, Maryland — so they are not going to be awe-struck by playing a power-five team. Everybody you talk to talks about how hard UNC Greensboro competes and how hard they play. They are going to be very successful in their league and they have already had some success outside their league. It’s a good opportunity for us to compete.”
On KU …
“Hopefully, we can grow from some learning experiences last weekend. We played good teams. We put ourselves in a position to be successful but fell short a couple times. We need to learn from that and respond to that. We have to be a little sharper, more ready to play and better teammates to eachother. With that preparation and mentality, hopefully, those close sets will start falling in our direction.”
Kansas plays its final nonconference match of the regular-season against Drake on Tuesday, Sept. 18. First serve for KU’s sixth-straight home match inside Horejsi Family Athletics Center is 6:30 p.m. on the Jayhawk Television Network (ESPN+).
@KUVolleyballKUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.