Kansas ready for Bluegrass Battle in Kentucky
The Kansas volleyball team (1-1) hits the road to compete in the Bluegrass Battle this weekend with host No. 16 Kentucky, Dayton and College of Charleston.
Competition starts early Friday morning with a 9 a.m. CT first serve against Dayton (3-0), followed by a Friday evening match against College of Charleston (2-1) at 5 p.m. CT. The tournament is capped off by a primetime matchup between Kansas and Kentucky (0-3) on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT. The KU-UK tilt will be video streamed live on SEC Network Plus.
All three KU matches can be heard on the Jayhawk IMG Radio Network through KUAthletics.com/radio. Kansas City’s ESPN Radio affiliate, KCTE-AM 1510, will broadcast KU’s pair of matches on Friday.
- Kansas has played a total of five matches against the field of the Bluegrass Battle entering this weekend. The Jayhawks are an even 1-1 in the series against Dayton and Kentucky, respectively. KU leads the series against College of Charleston, 1-0.
- Kentucky, ranked No. 16 in the AVCA Coaches Poll this week, will be the first nationally-ranked KU will face this season. The Jayhawks earned four top-25 wins in 2017.
- All four teams in the Bluegrass Battle are ranked in the top-60 of the Pablo Rankings (No. 28 Kansas, No. 14 Kentucky, No. 52 College of Charleston and No. 56 Dayton).
- The last time Kansas and Kentucky met, the Jayhawks swept the then-13th-ranked Wildcats to open the 2017 home schedule at Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2017.
- It has been 15 years since Kansas and Dayton met on the court, dating back to when the Jayhawks defeated the Flyers in five sets in Minneapolis on Sept. 6, 2003.
- The Jayhawks rank 31st nationally in blocks per set (2.78) after the first week of the season.
- Junior outside hitter Patricia Montero leads Kansas in kills per set (3.89). Returning from a season-ending knee injury in 2017, Montero has set career highs in kills during her first two matches back on the court in 2018. The Puerto Rico native totaled 35 kills in the two-match series against Arkansas last week.
- Junior middle blocker Zoe Hill paces the team in blocks per set (1.33). Hill adds 2.67 kills per set on a .450 hitting percentage as KU’s second-leading point scorer behind Montero.
- Defensive specialists Allie Nelson (4.56 digs per set) and Lacey Angello (4.44) account for over half of KU’s digs. The back-row mainstays have both worn the off-color libero jersey for KU — Nelson has started 32-straight matches at libero, while Angello, a freshman, wore the libero jersey for two sets against Arkansas (Aug. 26).
- Senior Gabby Simpson (3.44 assists per set) and sophomore Annika Carlson (7.22) have shared setting roles during the first two matches of the season for the Jayhawks. Carlson was the starting setter for the first two matches of the season, including her first-career start at Arkansas (Aug. 24).
- Junior middle blocker Mmachi Nwoke totals 10 blocks after the first two matches of the season. Her 1.25 blocks per set is second on the team behind Hill and is on pace for an individual career high.
- Freshman middle blocker Rachel Langs made her collegiate debut against Arkansas (Aug. 26), recording three kills and two blocks in just two sets played.
- Junior outside hitter Ashley Smith is coming off one of her more efficient performances of her career after posting 13 kills on a .400 attack clip against Arkansas (Aug. 26).
- KU’s three returning starters from 2017 are Nelson, Hill and junior outside hitter Jada Burse. 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).
- 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).
- KU’s lone senior is the left-handed 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.
- 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 after being ranked in the top-25 for 45-straight weeks prior to the end of the season.
- KU has finished each of the last six seasons with at least a top-20 RPI ranking (No. 20 in 2017).
- For the third-consecutive season, season tickets for KU’s home matches at Horejsi Family Athletics Center are sold out.
- 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.
- 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 375-241 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.
LAST TIME OUT
Kansas opened the season by splitting a two-match home-and-home series against Arkansas last weekend. The Jayhawks opened the season with a five-set victory in Fayetteville, coming back from two sets down to rally for the season-opening victory. The Razorbacks clipped the Jayhawks in Lawrence two days later, handing KU its first home-opening loss since 2013 and just its second in 25 seasons.
Kansas plays host to Auburn, American and Loyola Marymount in the Kansas Invitational, Sept. 7-8, at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
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