Payne named Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year


IRVING, Texas – For the second-straight season, senior All-American Kelsie Payne has been tabbed as the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year by the conference coaches in the Preseason All-Big 12 awards released on Wednesday.

In addition to preseason player of the year honors, Payne and fellow seniors Ainise Havili and Madison Rigdon were unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. There are a 13 members of the Preseason All-Big 12 team and the reigning Big 12 champion Jayhawks account for three of the six unanimous selections to the team.

“These awards are great sign of the respect that Kelsie, Ainise and Madison have earned around the league,” Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. “At the same time, we are not going to be complacent because we are a veteran team. We have had some great moments in the last couple years, but we want the best moments to be still ahead of them.”

In 2016, Payne was named the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and lived up to that billing, earning the postseason version of that title after leading Kansas to its first-ever Big 12 championship with a 15-1 conference record.

The Austin, Texas, native enters her senior campaign as one of the top players in the nation following back-to-back seasons as an AVCA first-team All-American during KU’s Big 12 title run in 2016 and Final Four appearance in 2015. Payne holds KU records for career hitting percentage and single-season kills, and is within reach of owning KU’s career kills record.

Havili enters her fourth season as KU’s starting setter as the back-to-back reigning Big 12 Setter of the Year in 2015 and 2016. Since stepping foot on campus, the Fort Worth, Texas, native has set the tone for a dynamic Kansas offense as a three-time AVCA All-American. Last season, Havili averaged 10.61 assists per set and 2.84 digs per set, totaling 16 assist-dig double-doubles.

Rigdon earned AVCA All-American Honorable Mention and All-Big 12 First team honors after starting in all 30 matches for the Big 12 champions. The Pflugerville, Texas, native led the Big 12 and ranked 12th in the nation in aces per set (0.47) while ranking second on the team and sixth in the Big 12 in kills per set (3.50) last season. Her 12 kill-dig double-doubles led the Jayhawks.

The 2017 Big 12 volleyball preseason poll will be announced on Thursday.

The Jayhawks open the 2017 season with an exhibition match against UMKC on Aug. 19 at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.


Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year: KELSIE PAYNE, KANSAS *
Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year: Lexi Sun, Texas


Katie  Staiger, Baylor *
Jess Schaben, Iowa State
Bryna Vogel, K-State
Madison Drescher, Oklahoma
Micaya White, Texas *
Ebony Nwanebu, Texas *
Chaika Ogbogu, Texas
Anna Walsh, TCU
Reyn Akiu, Texas Tech
Payton Caffrey, West Virginia

* – unanimous

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