Kansas Continues Spring Slate at Arkansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Spring volleyball is a grind. Ask Kansas head coach Ray Bechard, his staff and especially his Jayhawks. Yet, the balance between school, conditioning, training and long bus trips still resulted in Kansas wrapping up its unofficial spring season with a whole lot of wins.
On Saturday, Kansas traveled to Arkansas for five sets against the Razorbacks. Spring ball is not officially scored, nor are the matches set up in traditional best-of-five format. That being said, the Jayhawks took three of five from the Razorbacks and finished the spring with victories in 16 of 19 sets played.
“We played really, really well in our first weekend (at Colby, Kansas) and I think that was the expectation for the rest of the spring,” Bechard said. “To try to recapture that is always a challenge, especially with what they endure and balance in the spring season.”
Evenly-matched opponents, the two are mainstays on each other’s schedule in the fall and have met four times in the last three years. The results are split at two wins apiece. On Saturday, Arkansas claimed set one before KU took two and three. The Razorbacks tied it up with a fourth-set victory, setting up a fifth set that the respective coaches decided would be used to test out all the ‘this and that’ scenarios. KU won that one, giving the Jayhawks the informal five-set win.
More important than the unreported scores and stats, however, were the takeaways from the weekend and the spring as a whole. Bechard was happy with the overall success, but is not shying away from where his team needs to improve as the Jayhawks work their way toward a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance this fall.
“Our first contact is a little bit uneven,” Bechard said. “We’re making too many service errors as the risk vs. reward is not there yet. We’re not getting enough out of our serves. We’ve got to be a high-level first contact team. There have been moments where we’ve been that this spring and moments where we haven’t been at the level we want to be.”
Bechard remarked that those two areas would be the main point of focus for his team as the Jayhawks use the remainder of their allotted spring practice time. That deals a lot with new personnel.
For instance, Kelsie Payne shifted from the middle blocker position to the right side this spring in place of graduating senior Chelsea Albers. Albers was known for her strength as a primary passer, where Payne has been given the assignment more geared toward attacking and blocking. Bechard explained that being a good thing as Payne has made the transition even smoother than expected and has also become a strong server.
“It’s a process. The spring is a grind,” Bechard said. “Our ability right now is kind of going through stalls here and there, but that happens at the end of the spring. We’re still getting better and finding ways to progress.”
Juniors-to-be Tayler Soucie and Janae Hall each delivered solid performances, while Payne continued to shine in her new role. As Bechard holds out to see which defensive specialists will step up, one Jayhawk stood out in particular over the weekend.
“Cassie Wait has been a stud,” Bechard said. “All spring – and beyond.”
Kansas returns home to host its final spring match at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center Tuesday, April 21, at 5 p.m. Admission is free.
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