Spring Update: Kansas Solid in Colby Tournament

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Official team practices began in early March and as the month winds down, the Kansas volleyball team took its spring training on the road to Colby, Kansas for the first of three offseason tournaments.
The Jayhawks joined the University of Denver and Wichita State in Colby on Saturday for a two-session day. In the morning, the teams ran through a full training workout. A quick one-hour break later, the teams took to the court for 25-point scrimmage sets. While no official scores are recorded in the spring season, Kansas won all six sets played.
“We played six sets in a row, basically, and we were pretty steady the whole time,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We had seven newbies this fall, and now they seem a lot more mature, a lot more confident and more comfortable with the speed of the game. They’ve responded well this spring.”
The 2014 seniors did not travel with the team as the spring season is used to prepare for the upcoming 2015 campaign, giving Bechard and his staff additional avenues to test out different lineups and evaluate progress.
A middle blocker her freshman season, Kelsie Payne has practiced primarily on the right side this spring and put that to use on Saturday. She tallied a team-high 24 kills on the day, while soon-to-be sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon came away with 23 kills and a near .500 attack percentage. Fellow outside and upcoming senior Tiana Dockery followed with 21 kills. Setters Ainise Havili and Maggie Anderson shared the setting duties. Havili, the 2014 starting setter and the new KU record holder for assists in a freshman season, dished approximately 70 percent of the offense.
“We hit at a high number and passed at a high number, so we’re really enthused about those things,” Bechard said. “We didn’t run our middles as much as we wanted to, but we saw a lot of good things. We had good energy on our side and the kids really enjoyed playing with each other.”
Bechard mentioned that each team’s offense may have been a little ahead of their respective defenses, but was happy with what he saw out of his defensive specialists, all of whom got time on Saturday. Returning starter Cassie Wait manned the libero position, but Bechard intermittently worked senior transfer Anna Church into the spot. Middle blockers Tayler Soucie, Janae Hall and Kayla Cheadle held down the front line.  
“Defense is where we plan to spend a lot of time and focus,” Bechard said.
Kansas will certainly have talented depth in the position. Along with Wait and Church, Addison Barry, Claire Carpenter and Tori Miller all return to the Jayhawks’ back row.

Kansas will not travel over Easter weekend, but hit the road for back-to-back tournaments at UMKC on April 11 and at Arkansas on April 18.
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