Jayhawks Preview Seasons at Fall Sports Media Day
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coaches Ray Bechard, Mark Francis and Stanley Redwine took turns discussing their upcoming 2013 seasons for volleyball, soccer and cross country at the fall sports media day, Wednesday inside the Allen Fieldhouse media room.
Head volleyball coach Ray Bechard
“We are excited about the 2013 fall and Kansas volleyball. We’ve been hitting it hard since August 10, when two-a-days started. I was delighted when class started later this year because that gave us a little more time to prepare. I’m not sure our team was delighted that class started a little later, because that gives us a little more time to be together during two-a-days, but we are going to take full advantage of that. We’re anxiously preparing and awaiting our opener in Tucson, Ariz., against Central Arkansas at the Arizona tournament, so we’ve been working very hard at that. Of the 15 on our roster, 12 of those went through a very good year last year, but we have turned the page on that. I think there are things that we can look back on and obviously be excited about, but know that now it’s a new year and a new opportunity and that’s the way we are looking at that. We’ve talked about how you go from being successful to significant and I think that is one of the themes that we have used this year. Successful teams do certain things, but when you want to become significant in the collegiate world of volleyball, or within your league, then you have to take it to a new level in a lot of different ways and that’s what we have spoken to and that’s what we are working towards. We have 12 returning players and three freshmen that are all coming together and working hard and trying to become one heartbeat and one team. It’s good to have that type of experience back.
“We are in good hands at the setter position with Erin McNorton returning, who led the Big 12 in assists last year and to add depth to that position; Kara Wehrs has had a great fall and a great preseason camp as a senior who has had some time in the starting lineup in her career here. Maggie Anderson, who is a redshirt freshman from Lincoln, Neb., has done a great job, too. We feel like that position is in really good hands.
“At the middle blocker position we return Caroline Jarmoc, who was a second team All-American last year and had one of the best seasons of anybody in Kansas volleyball history. She has picked up right where she left off with the way she is attacking in the preseason and with the work she has put in over the spring and summer. Replacing Tayler Tolefree, who did a great job for us in that position over the last couple years, will be something that we need to do and we feel comfortable with redshirt freshman Janae Hall and Tayler Soucie, a true freshman, who we feel like can jump right into the mix, so we are excited about those two.
“We have four really quality pin players in Chelsea Albers, Catherine Carmichael, Tiana Dockery, who was All-Freshman Big 12, and First Team All-Big returner Sara McClinton. So there are three spots there for those four to fill and that will be a very competitive situation in practice so we are looking forward to that. We will also add some depth there with Emma Hanson, a freshman outside hitter, who has done a great job for us.
“Our ‘little people’, as we call them, are led by our libero Brianne Riley. She set the all-time digs record in three years here at the University of Kansas and now she is just going to add to that and move up the charts. She will be top-10, top-five maybe, all-time in the Big 12 before she is done. She is an unbelievable communicator and she does a great job in leading our team from an enthusiasm, vocal standpoint every day. It doesn’t stop there as Jaime Mathieu, Amy Wehrs and freshman Cassie Wait give us a core of defensive specialists that we can be really excited about.
“It’s a good group. We are going through the usual two-a-day aches and pains, bumps and bruises, but everybody is working extremely hard. We have put together what we consider an extremely difficult pre-conference schedule. We play nine of our first 10 away from Horejsi Family Athletics Center against a Pac-12 team in Arizona; at Wisconsin, who will be a very quality Big Ten opponent; Creighton, who is preseason top-25 in the country; at Arkansas, so there will be a number of difficult matches there. We are getting a taste of the Pac-12, the Big Ten, the SEC, plus some home matches with teams like Georgia and Notre Dame. We will have to be ready to roll and we will have to be road warriors for sure to get that started.
“In the Big 12 Conference, as you might not know, Texas is the preseason number one team in the country and the defending national champs, so obviously we are going to be really good at the top and there are going to be a ton of good teams that feel like they can challenge Texas in our conference, for that conference championship. I appreciate everybody coming out today and the Horejsi Family Athletics Center has become a great place to watch these young ladies compete and we appreciate all you do to build that atmosphere.”
On almost beating eventual National Champion, Texas, last season:
“We were up two games to one here and lost the fifth game, 15-12. If we could have flipped that match and the match at Baylor, we would have been Big 12 champs, but if you lose three or four of those five-set matches that we won and we would be in the middle of the pack, so it is somewhat of a fine line. I think that’s where an experienced team will allow you to make some gains on that. Volleyball certainly comes down to one or two plays in a close match for each set and maybe experience will allow us to do that and maybe hard work and preparation help us to jump over that line a little bit.”
On the challenges Caroline Jarmoc has coming back as an All-American:
“What will happen, as would in any sport, the game plan will be centered around her. Teams will be sending a blocker to her direction and committing blockers to her, much like you would for a leading rusher in football or a leading scorer in basketball. She is going to have to be used to people standing in front of her when she attacks and she knows that. That’s the way it was at the end of the year last year anyways. That is going to open up opportunities for other players on our team and I remember specifically last year a match at Oklahoma where they were following Jarmoc around with two players and then Cathy (Carmichael) went off and we ended up winning the match in five and she led us in kills because that’s what the defense gave us. We will be prepared for that and she will be prepared for that and I think that she is ready to play at a higher level.”
Volleyball season opener
The Jayhawks take the court for the first time at their annual Crimson and Blue Match on Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. inside the Horjesi Family Athletic Center.
Head soccer coach Mark Francis
On how to flip the result of so many close loses last year:
“It’s just consistency with which you approach things and really paying attention to the small details. In our sport it’s the little details that are going to make a difference. It’s that one opportunity that you don’t finish at the other end because maybe you tense up or you panic, or that one time you lose focus defensively and your man gets away from you in the box and she scores, that ends up being the 1-0 loss for you instead of a 1-0 win. It’s those small details we pay attention to and what we really did was we went back to the drawing board with them and basically, every single thing that we did was with small details. Whether it was going out to the field and players just throwing their bags and their backpacks on the ground, now we have somebody in charge of making sure they line them up. They’ve got to be lined up in a line, they’ve got to be in an orderly fashion when we’re warming up-everybody gets in a line at the same time, at the same tempo. When we bring it in some kids are in charge of making sure everybody runs in, sprints in, making sure nobody strolls in. So that puts some responsibility back on the players for paying attention to those details. One of our players is in charge of the locker room now. If there’s crap everywhere in the locker room then we are going to get on her because that’s her responsibility to take care of that, and make sure that the team is taking care of that. That really helped us in terms of communication within the group too, because that’s a huge part of it. The communication last year on the field was not very good to be completely honest with you. The returning guys this year have done a much better job in terms of communicating on the field and we’ve worked a lot in the spring. We’re seeing some of the benefits of that especially on the defensive side of it so far.”
On the challenges of having so many newcomers:
“The challenge is they haven’t competed at this level yet, but I think on Sunday we saw that all of the kids that were able to play are more than capable of playing at this level and making a big impact at this level. That was really encouraging for the first time out. The great part about it is they’re not tainted by anything at the college level so you can pretty much set the tone with them that this is what the expectation is. I think the returners have done a really good job of that and the freshmen have bought into it. That’s the advantage, you’ve got eight of your players of the 22 that basically are looking for somebody to lead them and I think the returners have done a good job of that so far.”
On excitement of getting Liana Salazar back this year:
“Yeah, she’s all right [laughing]. To be honest, I’m happiest for Liana because I don’t think anybody would really understand what she’s been through to be able to be here today as somebody that’s actually able to play in a game. Academically she really had to go way above and beyond to still be at Kansas right now. That kind of commitment she shows on the field, too, and I think that the team is excited to have her back. She’s a dynamic player. She’s definitely going to make us better offensively. I’m really excited to have her back on the field.”
On expectations for Caroline Kastor this year:
“Caroline had a great year last year. Academic All-American, she’s only the second one of those we’ve ever had. Caroline was always a good athlete, she’s always had extremely good speed and change of speed and people were always aware of that. I think she’s become a much better soccer player in the last two years. That’s just because she’s put the work in and I think going into conference she was a big part of the scouting report of other teams that had to deal with her. We moved her to the middle, she’s always played out wide. The season before she’d always played out wide. When you have a forward in the middle that’s that fast it’s really tough to deal with because she’s a threat to get in behind and also she can hold the ball up for you as well. We expect Caroline to be our leader on the offensive side of the field and I’m not going to be surprised if she is our leading-goal scorer this year.”
Soccer season opener
The Jayhawks defeated Nebraska-Omaha, 1-0, in an exhibition match on Sunday. KU opens the regular season when the team travels to Fayetteville, Ark., for an Aug. 23 date with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Head cross country/track and field coach Stanley Redwine
On the upcoming season:
“On the men’s side we are going to be pretty good. Last year we finished fourth at the Big 12 Championships. The goal was to make it to the NCAA Championships; unfortunately, we didn’t make it, so the goal (this year) is to make it. I think what needs to change there is that we’ve got to be a little bit more focused and we’ve got to stay healthy. Last year we ran together in a pack really well in some of our early season meets and that was always exciting. We had our home meet here, which is always good, and were ranked top 25 in the nation after that meet. What it really took after that was a consistency in being healthy and bringing the team together a little bit. I think on my part I made a mistake in that the athletes wanted to push more and push more and I was excited in allowing it, but now we’re going to have to hold them back a little bit so that we can be healthy at the end of the season. I think that’s one of the areas that we need to focus a little bit more on is pacing ourselves throughout the season. At our league meet we were ready to go and when you’re talking about five people and not having a close number six, if one of the top five fall out, then you’re really behind and I think that’s one of the things that happened to us at the end of the season last year. I think our men’s program is looking really good, we should be pretty solid this year. The goal is to make it to nationals and that’s one of the things that we’re talking about. Coach Witt (Michael Whittlesey) has been doing a great job in preparing the athletes and making sure they’re going to be ready, but it’s hard to know right now. We have 10 new people coming in, a couple of junior college people and then we have a lot of new freshmen, so we have to gel as a team. We got here on the 14th, started training on the 15th, so we’re still learning identities, still learning how each athlete will fit in among the total team. It’s been a really good week. The athletes are probably starting to get tired, as we are doing two-a-days.
“On our women’s part, we’re really young. We brought in 10 freshmen, 10 freshmen that have to play a role in being a part of a team that’s trying to do well at the Big 12s and to make it to the NCAAs. The good thing about last year’s success is there’s an expectation. They’re expected to come in and contribute. I think we have really good leadership in both men’s and women’s programs. When you have good leadership in making sure the teams are gelling and coming together and knowing their roles, it makes it a little bit easier. But, when you’re a freshman and a big race for you is a race of 70-80 people and now you’re in a race of 300 people, it becomes a little bit of a shell-shock. I believe that our women will be ready, but it has yet to be seen. The expectation is for them to continue to do well and I think they’ll step up to the challenge.
“As far as our leadership with (Josh) Munsch returning I think had a really good year last year on the guys side, and we had Natalie Becker on the women’s side. I think we have good leadership that wants to be successful. When you start to put those types of people in front of your freshmen and making sure that they compete well together, then our leaders are doing well for the team. Again, we’ve only been working out for a week; it’s hard to see exactly where we are. As I compare them to some of our teams in the past, they’re right up there with some of our better teams. So we are excited about where they are, but we have to pace ourselves to be a little bit more patient this year and be able to compete well at the end of the season and avoid injuries. So that’s kind of the good and the bad about both teams.”
On newcomers poised to have a good year:
“Right now they’re all training really well together and it’s hard to single any one of them out, especially with only seven practices. They did well in high school so I don’t want to just single one person out, but all of them had really good high school seasons and know how to compete at their state meet and that’s the only thing that we have to compare against. Every meet that they run in college will be, at the minimum, equivalent to their state meets in high school. So when you’re talking about freshmen racing against fifth-year seniors, we just have to see how they interact with those people.”
On excitement for the season following the success of last season:
“The first thing that we have to do as a team is put that behind us and understand that we’re in cross country season now. The success that we had in the track season doesn’t mean that we’re going to have the same success in the cross country season unless we do the things that it took to get there. I think we have to work hard, as a team, together to make sure that the expectation is to succeed. Like Mark [Francis] said, there is an expectation because of the success of our track team, but the cross country team is the same, there is an expectation there. When he’s talking about people having to step up, I feel the same way for our cross country runners. It’s a different season, it’s a different championship and we have to step up.”
Cross country season opener
The Jayhawks will once again kick off the season by hosting the Bob Timmons Classic at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence on Aug. 31.
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