Kansas Slated Second on Big 12 Preseason Poll
|2014 Big 12 Preseason Poll|
|1. Texas (8)||64|
|2. Kansas (1)||53|
|3. Iowa State||49|
|5. Kansas State||35|
|9. Texas Tech||11|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Back-to-back Big 12 Coach of the Year Ray Bechard is adamant that losing Kansas volleyball’s most successful senior class has not affected the expectations for the 2014 season. Just the opposite, in fact, as the Big 12 Conference coaches voted the Jayhawks to finish second in the preseason poll, the highest selection in KU’s history.
Released on Friday morning, the poll has Texas sitting at the top for the fourth-straight season with 64 points. A predictable selection as UT advanced to the 2013 Final Four and has won seven Big 12 titles and is 61-2 in its last 63 Big 12 matches. Kansas came in close behind with 53 points and one first-place vote, also a first.
“Preseason ideas are based on last year’s results,” Bechard said. “It is appreciated to be up there, but the only result that will matter is the result at the end of the year.”
Iowa State was picked third, while Oklahoma and Kansas State rounded out the top-five teams. Baylor came in sixth and TCU and West Virginia tied for the seventh-place spot. Texas Tech was voted for the remaining slot.
Although pleased by the poll, Bechard and his Jayhawks are focused on smoothly transitioning from a veteran team to a young one. Despite the loss of a two-time All-American, the Big 12 Setter of the Year, the program’s all-time digs leader and a total of seven seniors lost – the Jayhawks are prepared to move forward. As the curtain opens on 2014, the seven-member freshman class was tabbed the No. 15 by PrepVolleball.com. Not a bad sign for a team with just three upperclassmen.
“We will certainly have new faces, but our goals will be the same,” Bechard said. “The league that we play in will be stronger from top to bottom. The preseason schedule that we’ve chosen to play will be just as strong. We feel like we’ve set what we think is a reasonable standard and we have a level of expectation for this group.”
The Big 12 added to those expectations when the league named incoming setter Ainise Havili the Preseason Freshman of the Year. The team’s only seniors and returning All-Americans, Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton, made the Preseason Team, as did sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie. The three were named All-Big 12 First Team, All-Big 12 First Team and Big 12 All-Freshman Team, respectively, in 2013.
Bechard, also a recipient of the last two-consecutive AVCA Region Coach of the Year honors, starts the season one win away from the program’s 700th all-time victory and has created a winning mentality with an expectation of success.
Kansas captured its best conference finish (second) a year ago and the racked up back-to-back 25-win seasons for the first time since 1980-81. For two years running, KU has been in the top-15 in the RPI, held a national overall seed come tournament time and has hosted the first and second rounds inside Allen Fieldhouse.
The Kansas volleyball team reports to campus on Aug. 8 and will start its preseason camp the following day. KU will host its annual Crimson and Blue match on Saturday, Aug. 23 at 1 p.m., inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The event is free and open to the public.
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