Preseason All-Big 12 Volleyball Team Unveiled
LAWRENCE, Kan. – All three of the Kansas volleyball’s representatives on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team are accustomed to the spotlight. Junior Tayler Soucie and sophomores Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne – each of whom were all-conference selections in 2014 – were recognized as the conference released its honorees Thursday afternoon.
Poised for what could be an unprecedented season, Kansas will open 2015 on August 28 against Army in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Jayhawks are coming off of a 22-9 campaign in 2014 and their second-straight second-place finish in the Big 12. This year’s squad could be the one that sends Kansas to the NCAA Tournament for four-straight years for the first time in program history – especially with the help of the trio of Preseason All-Big 12 selections.
“Those three represent a lot of talent that we have coming back,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Beyond that, it speaks to the balance that I think our team will have. It’s relevant that these three received this recognition, but it will be much more relevant when the season is over and the votes are taken then. We have a roster where there could be others added to that list also. We’re excited that we were recognized, but more importantly, let’s have a great year and create opportunities for everyone.”
Soucie led the Big 12 in blocks per set (1.40) in 2014 just one year after breaking the KU record for total blocks in a freshman season (135). Not just a defensive stud, Soucie starts the 2015 season with the Jayhawks’ best all-time career attack percentage (.333). The Osawatomie, Kansas native was named to the All-Big 12 First Team last year and has now made the Preseason All-Big 12 Team in each of the last two seasons.
Bechard and his staff made the decision to move sophomore Kelsie Payne from middle blocker to right side in 2015. Payne was a vital piece of the Jayhawks’ success in 2014, hitting .341 for the year with more than two kills (2.05) and one block (1.06) per set. Her athleticism will shine no matter where she is on the court. The Austin, Texas native was recognized on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team in 2014.
Havili earned herself AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honors in 2014 along with Big 12 All-Freshman Team recognition after playing every set of her rookie campaign. She broke the KU freshman record for assists (1,332), which also happened to lead every setter in the conference. Still going, she averaged more than 2.5 digs per set, totaled 50 blocks and led the team in service aces (33). Aside from her All-America prowess, the Fort Worth, Texas native was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. She was also the 2014 Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year.
“Soucie is getting more comfortable with her surroundings,” Bechard said. “Havili, we just threw her into it and she did great. Payne ended the season playing at a much higher level than she started, which continued through the spring and the foreign trip. Hopefully all three of them feel like there are better things to come.”
The Kansas volleyball team reports to campus on Aug. 9 and will start its preseason camp the following day. KU will host its annual Crimson and Blue match on Saturday, Aug. 22 at 1 p.m., inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The event is free and open to the public.
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