Kansas Sweeps Through Spring Home Finale
LAWRENCE, Kan. – In its last spring showdown, Kansas volleyball used every bit of the opportunity to put on its best performance on its own floor. The Jayhawks won six-straight sets inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center to finish the unofficial slate with bang Tuesday night.
KU welcomed local college teams Washburn, Rockhurst and the professional team Heart of America Havoc to its home court, squaring off for two sets against each opponent. Since the spring season revolves around training rather than scores and stats, the matches are not played in the traditional format. Nevertheless, the Jayhawks rolled through the evening with a 2-0 mark against all three teams.
“It was a good way to finish the spring,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We only had 12 attack errors on 180-some swings, so we were low error and passed at a 2.3, which is our goal. We just have to cut the service errors in half. Outside of that, we played very well.”
The only home contest of the semester concluded the spring schedule with 22 victories in 25 sets played, thanks to a dominate display amongst the Jayhawks’ home fans. For the evening, KU hit for a combined .357 attack percentage. Bechard pinpointed the changes he wanted to see his team make following the Arkansas trip last weekend and was happy with what he saw.
“We played to the Jayhawk standard,” Bechard said. “We want to side out, first-ball kill and pass well – we did all three of those things.”
Bechard and associate head coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn held court, discussing the progression they saw in the team throughout the spring season. The allotted amount of team practices ends on Thursday.
Both agreed that Kelsie Payne’s adjustment to the right side has been incredibly positive, and also spoke highly of sophomore-to-be Madison Rigdon’s spring progress. Rigdon led the team in service aces last season and ranked in the top 10 in the Big 12 Conference. She joins upcoming senior Tiana Dockery as the two returning outside hitters. Both are lethal jump servers, with serving being an area the Jayhawks continue to focus on.
Bechard and Kuhn saw multiple instances where each player on the roster delivered solid performances in the spring, specifically mentioning middle blocker Janae Hall and libero Cassie Wait. What they also pleasantly noted, was the team’s appreciation and respect for each other.
“As a staff, we’ve talked about the personality of this team growing up together,” Kuhn said. “They were so young in their first semester that it has made them more comfortable competing in the gym this spring. That has helped the transition for Kelsie, and Madison’s performance in general. We said it coming in after the fall – practices were significantly different. There was a different energy in the gym.”
Though spring comes with a grind-it-out mentality complete with ups and downs, overall the environment proved to be one where the Jayhawks could hold themselves accountable and improve. With the loss of just two seniors, the returning core will look to get Kansas to its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament in 2015.
“That could be our starting lineup, what you saw last night (at the home spring match),” Bechard said. “We’re excited about who we have coming back.”
The Jayhawks will hit the road in a big way next month when Kansas travels to Europe for six matches against international competition in Italy, France and Spain.
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