No. 9 Kansas and No. 5 Texas meet Wednesday in fifth-straight top-10 series matchup
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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas and Texas will meet for the fifth-straight time as top-10 opponents at Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Wednesday night (8 p.m., ESPNU). The top spot in the Big 12 standings will be on the line as the ninth-ranked Jayhawks (16-2, 5-0 Big 12) and fifth-ranked Longhorns (12-2, 4-0) are the last two undefeated teams in conference play this season.
• Kansas won the last series meeting in five sets on Oct. 29, 2016. The win broke a 25-match UT series winning streak and marked the first victory for KU in the series since 2003. The Longhorns lead the all-time series, 40-5. Four of the last six KU-UT series matches in Lawrence have lasted five sets, including the last two meetings at Horejsi Family Athletics Center in 2015 and 2016.
• With 4,751 career assists, Ainise Havili is 22 assists away from setting KU’s career assists record.
• Kansas is 24-1 in the last 25 Big 12 contests, including a program-record 19-straight conference wins.
• Kansas is coming off back-to-back Big 12 road wins at West Virginia and at Oklahoma last week.
• Kansas has three wins against teams ranked in the AVCA Coaches Poll and a 6-1 record against teams currently in the top-50 of the NCAA RPI.
• KU has made 39-straight appearances in the AVCA Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 9 this week.
• Four different Jayhawks have earned five of the seven Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week nods so far this season, including Zoe Hill’s first-career honor on Monday.
• Kansas leads the Big 12 in kills per set (14.66) and assists per set (13.74).
• Since the start of the 2015 season, Kansas has the highest winning percentage in the country (.901). The Jayhawks are 73-8 in the last three seasons.
• Head coach Ray Bechard is in his 20th season at Kansas. The four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year is the winningest coach in Kansas volleyball history.
• The University of Kansas and Kansas Athletics announced on Sept. 22 plans to construct a new 3,000-seat volleyball arena thanks to the generosity of the Stewart Horejsi Family. Construction of the Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena will begin immediately following the 2017 season.
For the fifth-straight time, Kansas and Texas will meet as top-10 opponents in Lawrence on Wednesday night (8 p.m., ESPNU). In the most recent AVCA Coaches Poll, the Jayhawks are ranked ninth and the Longhorns are ranked fifth. KU (5-0) and UT (4-0) are also the only remaining undefeated teams in Big 12 Conference play.
Kansas won the last series meeting in five sets on Oct. 29, 2016, on the way to the program’s first-ever Big 12 Conference title — finishing conference play with a 15-1 record. The win broke a 25-match UT series winning streak and marked the first victory for KU in the series since 2003. The Longhorns lead the all-time series, 40-5.
KU’s lone conference loss of last season was at Texas on Sept. 24, 2016, in four sets. Since then, Kansas has won 19-straight Big 12 matches.
Four of the last six KU-UT series matches in Lawrence have lasted five sets, including the last two meetings at Horejsi Family Athletics Center in 2015 and 2016.
Led by head coach Jerritt Elliott, Texas enters Wednesday with a 12-2 record and a 4-0 mark during Big 12 play. The Longhorns lead the nation in blocks per set (3.44) and rank sixth nationally in hitting percentage (.310).
ESPNU will televise the top-10 matchup between Kansas and Texas with Sam Gore calling play-by-play and Olympic gold medalist Dain Blanton providing analysis. It is the third appearance for Kansas volleyball on national during conference play this season.
Live audio of Wednesday’s match will be available on KUAthletics.com/radio and KJHK-FM 90.7 with Nick Lewis calling play-by-play.
LAST TIME OUT
Led by a balanced offense that went early and often through middle blockers Zoe Hill and Mmachi Nwoke, Kansas defeated Oklahoma on Saturday night in Norman, 3-1 (25-18, 25-19, 24-26, 25-11). KU’s starting middle blockers Hill and Nwoke finished with a combined 21 kills, zero attacking errors and 10 blocks to diversify KU’s offensive attack and secure KU’s front-line defense. Hill tied her career high of 10 kills on a .769 hitting percentage with five blocks. Nwoke, making her first start as a Jayhawk, set a career high in kills (11) on a .786 hitting percentage with five blocks. Kansas out-blocked Oklahoma, 12.0 to 2.0, and recorded just 12 attacking errors to OU’s 32.
HAVILI APPROACHING HISTORY
Senior All-American setter Ainise Havili is on the cusp of making history at KU.
With 4,751 career assists, Havili is 22 assists away from passing Andi Rozum and setting KU’s career assists record. Rozum (2002-05) ended her career with 4,772 assists. Havili averages a league-leading 11.97 assists per set this season.
HILL ON THE RISE
Sophomore middle blocker Zoe Hill leads the Big 12 in hitting percentage (.516) during conference play this season. Hill was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, after recording a league-leading .708 hitting percentage during KU’s pair of road wins during week seven of the season.
The Houston native did not record a single attacking error during KU’s pair of road wins at West Virginia and Oklahoma last week, totaling 17 kills on 24 swings.Hill posted seven kills at West Virginia (Oct. 4) and recorded 10 kills on 13 swings at Oklahoma (Sept. 7) for a career-high .769 hitting percentage. She added five blocks against the Sooners — three block-assists and two solo blocks — to total 13.5 points as KU won its 19th-straight Big 12 Conference victory.
FIVE BIG 12 OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Kansas has earned five of the seven Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week awards so far this season. In the first three weeks of the regular season, Kansas took home the honor with setter outside hitter Madison Rigdon (Sept. 11), right-side hitter Kelsie Payne (Sept. 4) and setter Ainise Havili (Aug. 28) honored by the Big 12. Kansas has won the honor for two-straight weeks with Havili earning her second nod on Oct. 2 and sophomore middle blocker Zoe Hill earning her first-career Big 12 weekly award on Monday, Oct. 9.
Since the Big 12 began awarding offensive players of the week in 2007, there have been only three times when a team has earned three-straight Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors from three different players. Kansas has done it the last two times in 2013 and 2017.
WATCH FOR MMACHI
Sophomore middle blocker Mmachi Nwoke (pronounced mah-CHEE WHOA-kay) provided a late spark for Kansas in a four-set road victory at West Virginia (Oct. 4) and made her first career start at Oklahoma (Oct. 9). Nwoke recorded a .696 hitting percentage during week seven of the season.
Prior to the West Virginia match, Nwoke had played in just three sets all season for the Jayhawks with three kills and two blocks.
Kansas has a 6-1 record against teams currently ranked in the top-50 of the NCAA RPI. The six wins includes one top-10 victory and three top-20 victories.
The Jayhawks have already tied a program record for wins in a season (three) against teams ranked in the top-25 of the AVCA Coaches Poll at the time of the match. The Jayhawks are 3-1 against ranked teams with wins over No. 13 Kentucky, No. 17 Purdue and No. 18 Iowa State. KU previously notched three top-25 wins in 2003 and 2012.
BIG 12 WINNING STREAK
Kansas has won the last 19 matches against Big 12 opponents entering Wednesday’s contest against No. 5 Texas. It is the longest conference winning streak in program history for the Jayhawks. Additionally, Kansas is 24-1 in the last 25 Big 12 contests.
It has been over a full calendar year since KU last lost a Big 12 match — Sept. 24, 2016 at then-No. 5 Texas.
Through the years, Kansas has steadily gained success in conference play. In 2003, KU’s first-ever conference winning streak of four matches or longer was started with victories over then-No. 25 Missouri and a road win at Texas. The next season in 2004, KU rattled off four-in-a-row during a stretch that included two wins over a top-15 Texas A&M squad.
From 2011 to 2013, KU pieced together a pair of Big 12 winning streaks that lasted six and seven matches, respectively.
KU’s previous record for the longest Big 12 winning streak was nine matches from the end of the 2014 season to the beginning of league play in 2015.
All eight of KU’s Big 12 winning streaks of four matches or longer have ended with losses to top-25 teams.
Kansas returned to the top-10 of the AVCA Coaches Poll released on Monday, Oct. 9. The ninth-ranked Jayhawks have been ranked 39-straight times in the AVCA poll entering the eighth week of the regular season.
Kansas is ranked in the top-10 for the fifth time this season and first time since Sept. 11.
The Big 12 features a season-high four teams ranked in the top-25 — No. 9 Kansas, No. 5 Texas and No. 23 Iowa State and No. 25 Baylor. Baylor made its season debut in the top-25 after receiving votes in the AVCA’s poll for the previous seven-straight weeks.
In the second week of the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), Kansas checks in at No. 12. The Jayhawks are 6-1 against top-50 RPI teams this season.
BIG 12 LEADERS
Kansas leads the Big 12 in kills per set (14.66) and assists per set (13.74), while ranking second in hitting percentage (.277) and third in digs per set (15.67). Ainise Havili leads the Big 12 and ranks fifth in the nation in assists per set (11.97). Kelsie Payne ranks second in the league both kills per set (4.20) and points per set (4.58). Madison Rigdon ranks second in the Big 12 in aces per set (0.33) and fourth in both kills per set (3.56) and points per set (4.20).
Havili has the most assists by a Big 12 player in a match this season (63 at NC State, Aug. 26). Sophomore libero Allie Nelson has the most digs by a Big 12 player in a four-set match (28 vs. Missouri State, Aug. 26).
COUNTRY’S TOP WINNING PERCENTAGE SINCE 2015
Since the start of the 2015 season, Kansas has the highest winning percentage in the country (.901). The Jayhawks are 73-8 in the last three seasons. Wednesday’s opponent Texas isn’t far behind, ranking fifth with a .873 winning percentage since 2015.
Senior setter Ainise Havili has recorded an assist-dig double-double in 15 of KU’s 18 matches this season. The Jayhawks combine for 10 kill-dig double-doubles this season as senior outside hitter Madison Rigdon has eight and senior right-side hitter Kelsie Payne has three.
In addition to Ainise Havili quickly approaching KU’s career assists record, fellow senior All-Americans Kelsie Payne and Madison Rigdon are on pace to rewrite KU’s record books this season as well.
Payne ranks first in career hitting percentage (.350), second in career kills (1,372) and 12th in career blocks (311). She now needs 111 more kills to tie the current record of 1,483 held by Josi Lima (2002-05). Last season Payne became the 15th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 kills — she is the only pin hitter in KU history with 1,000 kills and a hitting percentage of .300 or higher. On Sept. 15 against San Jose State, she became the 13th Jayhawk to reach 300 blocks.
Rigdon ranks 13th in career kills (1,129) and is third in career aces (130). Rigdon became the 16th Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career kills with 15 against Purdue (Sept. 8).
Havili stands second in career assists (4,751) and seventh in career digs (1,175). With 99 service aces, Havili is an ace away from joining Rigdon and becoming the 18th Jayhawk to reach 100 career aces. 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. Havili became the 14th all-time Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career digs with 14 against NC State (Aug. 26).
BECHARD IN 20th 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 an unprecedented era of success. 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).
Kansas has this weekend off before another road match at No. 25 Baylor on Wednesday, Oct. 18 (8 p.m., FOX Sports Southwest Plus). It will mark the Jayhawks’ third road contest in the last four matches.
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