No. 8 Kansas hosts Oklahoma in Big 12 opener

 KANSAS (11-1, 0-0 Big 12) vs.
 Oklahoma (9-4, 0-0 Big 12)
Date Wednesday, Sept. 21
Time 6 p.m. Central
Location Lawrence, Kan.
Arena Horejsi Family Athletics Center
Video WatchESPN
Radio KLWN-AM 1320
Audio Jayhawk Radio Network
Twitter @KUVolleyball | #kuvball
Instagram @kuvolleyball | #kuvball
Facebook /KansasVolleyball | #kuvball
 Hitting % .233 .285
 Opp. Hitting % .118 .205
 Assists 12.2 13.1
 Kills 12.9 14.0
 Blocks 2.1 2.1
 Aces 1.7 1.2
 Digs 15.4 12.3

Notes Game Notes (.pdf)

Kansas begins Big 12 Conference play on Wednesday in front of a national television audience as the Jayhawks play host to Oklahoma on ESPNU at 6 p.m. Central. The Jayhawks are 4-3 when playing their first Big 12 match of the season at home. Last season Kansas defeated K-State in four sets at home to open league play. Prior to 2015, Kansas opened Big 12 play on the road for seven-straight seasons. Kansas is 1-1 against Oklahoma in Big 12 openers. Bechard’s first career Big 12 match was a four-set victory over the Sooners on Sept. 23, 1998. Kansas is 7-13 in Big 12 openers, including a 7-11 mark under head coach Ray Bechard.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Kansas, 48-35. The Jayhawks are on a three-match winning streak against the Sooners, and hold a 14-3 record against OU inside Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The home team has won the last six of the last seven matches in the KU-OU series – the only exception being KU’s 3-1 victory in Norman last season. KU holds a 26-14 series lead during Big 12 regular-season play.

Kansas concluded nonconference play with an 11-1 record. The Jayhawks’ 25-match winning streak against nonconference opponents during the regular season came to an end in a four-set loss at No. 14 Purdue (Sept. 16). The regular-season nonconference winning streak began on Sept. 19, 2014 and included eight-straight nonconference tournament titles. Kansas is 180-30 (.857) against nonconference teams during the regular season under head coach Ray Bechard.

Kansas has won all three of its five-set matches this season. All three five-set tests have come in different settings – at home against Arkansas, on the road at Creighton, and on a neutral site against Xavier. During last season’s unprecedented run to the Final Four, the Jayhawks played two five-set matches the entire season – at home against No. 5 Texas and in the NCAA regional final against No. 1 USC.  

KU’s 41 wins since the start of the 2015 season is tied with USC and Washington for second-most in NCAA Division I volleyball during that period. Western Kentucky leads with 41 since the start of last season. The Jayhawks’ only three loss were to the pair of teams that played in the 2015 NCAA Championship title match – Texas and Nebraska.

Wins since 2015 (as of Sept. 20, 2016)
Western Kentucky – 44
USC – 41
Washington – 41
Nebraska – 41

Senior libero Cassie Wait enters this week with 1,596 career digs, which ranks second on KU’s career digs list. She now stands 457 digs away from all-time leader Brianne Riley (2010-13; 2,053). Wait and Riley played on the same team in 2013. On Sept. 23, 2015 against K-State, Wait became the third-fastest Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career digs (77 matches; 282 sets).

Senior middle blocker Tayler Soucie enters this weekend with 439 career blocks, ranking third on KU’s career blocks list. Soucie has recorded 100 blocks for three-consecutive seasons entering her senior campaign; the only Jayhawk to record four 100-block seasons was career blocks leader Caroline Jarmoc (2010-13; 555). Soucie, the 2015-16 Big 12 Female Sportsperson of the Year, trails second-place Amanda Reves (1996-99; 514) by 75 blocks.

Junior All-American setter Ainise Havili became the seventh Jayhawk to reach 3,000 career assists after registering 47 against Chattanooga (Sept. 9). She enters this weekend with 3,159 career assists. The reigning Big 12 Setter of the Year already ranks second in career assists per set (11.53) in the KU record books.

Junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne is KU’s career leader in hitting percentage (.359) among attackers with at least 1,000 attempts. The Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year totals 819 kills and will soon become the 15th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career kills.

Kansas leads the Big 12 in aces per set (1.7) after the conclusion of nonconference play. The Jayhawks have eight matches with seven or more aces. Individually, junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon leads the Big 12 and ranks fourth nationally with 29 aces – at least 11 more than any other player in the league.

KU Aces per Set
2013: 0.95
2014: 1.11
2015: 1.32
2016: 1.73

KU’s 10-0 start tied for the second-best start in program history, trailing only last season’s Final Four team which started 19-0. KU’s 2001 season also began 10-0. The top-four of KU’s best starts in have been under the tutelage of head coach Ray Bechard.

Year – Start (Finish)
2015 – 19-0 (30-3, 14-2 Big 12, NCAA Final Four)
2016 – 10-0 (?)
2001 – 10-0 (16-15, 6-14 Big 12)
2000 – 9-0 (15-14, 6-14 Big 12)

Kansas fell four spots to No. 8 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll released on Monday. Last week, KU’s No. 4 ranking tied for the highest ranking in program history for the fourth time.

The Jayhawks have been ranked in the top-25 for a program-record 19-consecutive times dating back to last season, including 15-consecutive times in the top-10. The Jayhawks debuted the season with a No. 5 preseason ranking in the AVCA Coaches Poll and finished last season ranked No. 4 after advancing to the Final Four.

Featured on KU’s schedule are No. 2 Texas (Sept. 24, Oct. 29), No. 14 Purdue (Friday) and No. 25 Kansas State (Oct. 12, Nov. 2).

Junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon has a head start to her most successful season as a Jayhawk. The Pflugerville, Texas native has already garnered two nonconference tournament MVP honors (Bulldog Classic, Bluejay Invitational) and ranks fourth in the nation in aces per set (0.67). Rigdon has increased production across the board in kills, hitting accuracy, digs and service aces, comparted to last season’s All-Big 12 Second Team campaign.

Madison Rigdon
2014: 2.18 k/s, .226 %, 1.23 d/s, 0.31 sa/s
2015: 2.75 k/s, .206 %, 2.11 d/s, 0.26 sa/s
2016: 3.49 k/s, .240 %, 2.05 d/s, 0.67 sa/s

k/s – kills per set; % – hitting percentage; d/s – digs per set; sa/s – aces per set

Kansas returned five starters, including libero Cassie Wait, from the squad that advanced all the way to the NCAA Championship semifinals in 2015. The two starting positions that needed to be replaced were outside hitter (Tiana Dockery) and middle blocker (Janae Hall). Through nine matches in 2016, redshirt freshman Patricia Montero has started 11 of 12 at outside hitter. At middle blocker, freshman Zoe Hill has eight starts and junior Kayla Cheadle has four starts.

Dockery was a four-year start for the Jayhawks who averaged before graduating. Hall went for  

Jada Burse became the first Jayhawk other than Kelsie Payne or Madison Rigdon to lead or co-lead the team in kills during a match as the freshman outside hitter registered nine kills during a three-set sweep of Southeastern Louisiana (Sept. 17). Burse also went off for eight kills on 10 errorless swings during KU’s three-set victory over Maryland (Sept. 2), marking a KU season high for hitting percentage (.800) with a 10-attack minimum.

Kansas has held opponents to single-digit points in a set 13 times since the 25-point rally scoring era began in 2008. Of those 13 sets, nine have come in the last two seasons. Most recently, the Jayhawks held Chicago State to single-digit sets twice during KU’s home-opening sweep on Sept. 2 (25-12, 25-8, 25-9).

Opponent’s Single-Digit Sets
25-Point Rally Scoring Era
11/24/2009 vs. TEXAS TECH: 25-8 (Set 1)
8/27/2011 vs. Liberty: 25-9 (Set 3)
11/26/2011 vs. BAYLOR: 25-9 (Set 4)
11/30/2012 vs. CLEVELAND STATE: 25-1 (Set 4)
8/29/2015 vs. McNeese State: 25-9 (Set 1)
9/18/2015 vs. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE: 25-9 (Set 2)
10/31/2015 vs. BAYLOR: 25-9 (Set 2)
11/28/2015 vs. TEXAS TECH: 25-9 (Set 2)
9/4/2015 vs. WESTERN ILLINOIS: 25-6 (Set 3)
9/18/2015 vs. GONZAGA: 25-8 (Set 4)
8/27/2016 vs. Lamar: 25-9 (Set 3)
9/2/2016 vs. CHICAGO STATE: 25-8 (Set 2)
9/2/2016 vs. CHICAGO STATE: 25-9 (Set 3)

List does not include the fifth set, which goes to 15 points.

Senior libero Cassie Wait leads the Big 12 in digs per set (5.46) and is the floor general for a KU defense which is holding opponents to a Big 12-best .118 hitting percentage. Wait earned back-to-back Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors on Sept. 5 and Sept. 12. The Gardner, Kansas native has reached 20 digs in half (six) of this season’s matches, including two 20-dig performances in a three-set match. Wait set a Bluejay Invitational record of 33 digs during KU’s five-set victory over preseason-No. 18 Creighton (Sept. 8), marking her third career 30-dig performance.

Junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne went off for 25 kills on a .487 hitting percentage in only three sets against Northern Iowa (Sept. 10). Her second 20-kill performance of the season came just one kill shy of her career-high 26 set against Iowa State (Oct. 28, 2015) in four sets. It marks the second time in her career that she recorded at least 20 kills in just three sets.

Kelsie Payne: 20-kill, three-set performances
11/14/2015 vs. TCU: 21 kills
9/10/2016 vs. UNI: 25 kills

Junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne was named MVP of the Kansas Invitational for her role in leading the Jayhawks to their seventh-straight nonconference tournament title. Payne averaged 4.33 kills per set and 3.11 digs per set whiling attacking with a .315 hitting percentage. The Austin, Texas native closed out the event with one of her more impressive performances of her career – registering 25 kills on a .353 hitting percentage with 13 digs, four blocks and two aces to lead Kansas to a thrilling five-set victory over Arkansas.

Junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon lived up to her social media nickname of ‘Mad Dawg’ during season-opening weekend, in which she was named MVP on the Bulldog Invitational. Rigdon opened the event with 14 kills in a straight-set win over host Mississippi State on Friday and finished the weekend with seven aces, 1.67 digs per set and 2.78 kills per set on a .333 hitting percentage.

Junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne owned her new role as a six-rotation player in the season opener against Mississippi State (Aug. 26), recording her first career double-double with 11 kills and a career-high 12 digs. During her first season at Kansas, Payne played the middle blocker position but missed part of the season due to injury. Last season she earned AVCA First-Team All-America honors after moving to the right-side hitter position and setting a KU single-season kills record (496) as a front-row attacker.

A clerical error noted by the NCAA last week put Kansas in the lead for two 2015 statistical categories. The Jayhawks led all NCAA Division I teams in kills per set (15.10) and assists per set (14.17) last season. Boise State was the previous leader before the error was corrected. It marks the first time Kansas has led the nation in any major statistical category.

New this season, the Big 12 Conference has implemented a rule that requires three minutes between each set, including the second and third. This rule supplants the longer intermission period of 10 minutes between the second and third sets in the past. The three-minute break between sets will apply to Kansas home matches, including nonconference play, and all Big 12 matches.

Big 12 Conference volleyball coaches picked Kansas second with one first-place vote in the annual Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The No. 2 projection ties for KU’s highest preseason position in the Big 12’s 21-year history. In 2014, the Jayhawks were also picked second with one first-place vote.

Kansas has finished second in the Big 12 regular-season standings for three-consecutive seasons behind preseason favorite Texas.

Junior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne was named KU’s first-ever Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches. Payne joins senior middle blocker Tayler Soucie and junior setter Ainise Havili on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. The same trio represented Kansas on the 2015 Preseason All-Big 12 Team.

Last season Payne led the Big 12 in kills per set (4.4) and set a Kansas single-season record for total kills (496) on the way to earning some of the top honors in the sport, including AVCA First-Team All-America, All-Big 12 First Team and NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team. In addition, espnW named Payne as one of the nation’s 12 players to watch this season.

It is the third-straight season Soucie has been named to the Big 12 preseason team. In each of the past two seasons she has delivered on her potential by earning All-Big 12 First Team honors in 2014 and 2015. Last season the Osawatomie, Kansas native ranked third in the Big 12 in blocks per set (1.23) and sixth in hitting percentage (.354), while totaling six matches with double-figure kills and 11 matches with five or more blocks.

Havili, the reigning Big 12 Setter of the Year and AVCA First-Team All-American, set the pace for one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, which ranked fourth in the country in team hitting percentage (.299) and second in the country in kills per set (15.1). The Fort Worth, Texas native led the Big 12 in assists per set (12.1) and total assists (1,371) for the second-straight season while leading Kansas in total aces (31).

Senior middle blocker Tayler Soucie was voted Big 12 Female Sportsperson of the Year for the 2015-16 academic year. 

• Accumulated over 140 community service hours during the 2015-16 academic year while participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters, along with volunteering at the local hospital and visiting local elementary schools.
• Responsible for creating the Holiday Toy Drive benefiting a local hospital.
• Named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team in both 2015 and 2014 and has found herself on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll six times.
• Holds the Community Outreach Chair position on KU’s SAAC and is the Jayhawks’ Female Big 12 SAAC representative.

Kansas Big 12 Sportspersons of the Year
2006-07: Amanda Costner, Women’s Golf
2007-08: Katie Martincich, Volleyball
2008-09: Darrell Stuckey, Football
2015-16: Tayler Soucie, Volleyball

KU’s full-time coaching staff, led by head coach Ray Bechard (three-time Big 12 Coach of the Year), associate head coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn (2015 AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year) and assistant coach Todd Chamberlain remains intact for the sixth-consecutive season. Skyler Yee was named volunteer assistant coach for the 2016 season over the summer. Yee, a junior at KU, joins the coaching staff after serving as a team manager during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons for the Jayhawks. Yee replaces 2015 volunteer assistant Lucas Yanez, who accepted a full-time coaching position at Coastal Carolina in May.

This season, four Jayhawks will draw from valuable experiences with USA Volleyball over the summer. All-American setter Ainise Havili and outside hitter Madison Rigdon traveled overseas for a tour of China with the U.S. Collegiate National Team. All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne and libero Cassie Wait trained with the U.S. Women’s National Team’s Pan American Cup roster in Anaheim, California. Payne was one of 12 athletes selected to the roster which competed at the 2016 Pan American Cup in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Payne and the team advanced out of Pool B with a 5-0 record and won the bronze medal match.

Kansas features five returning starters, including Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Kelsie Payne, from a 2015 squad that finished the season ranked No. 4 in the nation and advanced to the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship semifinal. The Jayhawks led the Big 12 in kills, assists, aces and defensive hitting percentage during the historic season.

Last season unprecedented marks were met and exceeded during a ground-breaking run. The Jayhawks achieved their highest winning percentage in program history (.909; 30-3), highest ranking in program history (No. 4; AVCA), best postseason finish in program history (made first appearances in a Regional Final and National Semifinal), first AVCA All-America First Team selections (Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne), program-record four-consecutive seasons of hosting the NCAA Championship First & Second Rounds, best start to a season in program history (19-0), longest winning streak in program history (W19), program’s fastest team to 20 wins (21 matches) and 30 wins (32 matches), ranked top-five nationally in hitting percentage (.299, fourth), kills per set (15.4, second), and assists per set (14.2, second).

The Jayhawks’ only three losses of the season were against the two teams that played for the NCAA title – Texas and Nebraska.

Kansas returns five starters, including Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Kelsie Payne, from a team that finished the season with the best winning percentage in program history (30-3, .909) last season. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.