Excitement Surrounds 2013 Preseason Camp
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Days before returning to Lawrence, several Kansas volleyball players could be found posting countdowns on their social media accounts, excitedly awaiting the official start of the 2013 season. That excitement came with them when preseason camp kicked off Saturday morning.
Fitness testing and two practice sessions combined for an intense welcoming committee, but the veteran team was up to the challenge and ready to get to work on improving for 2013.
“It was an early morning, but I didn’t need an alarm,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “So that means I was ready to go, usually I need an alarm for about anything. I’m excited and I know the staff is excited to get going. There has been a lot of anticipation and the kids have been working hard this summer, but we don’t really have a chance to get together as a team and talk about what we’d like to get accomplished until camp started this morning. It was certainly fun to do that.”
Bechard, the 2012 Big 12 Coach of the Year, returns 10 letterwinners, four starters and the libero from a team that went 26-7 last fall – the best winning percentage for a season in program history. KU also earned a national seed in the NCAA Tournament and finished the season ranked No. 25 on the AVCA poll, but Bechard and the Jayhawks know that success in 2012 won’t repeat in 2013 without extreme focus and hard work.
“We said 2012 didn’t equal 2011 and now 2013 doesn’t equal 2012,” Bechard said. “It’s a new roster, even though we have a lot of familiar faces. We do have to refocus and remember all the work we put into a successful year and know that the schedule changes, events change, personnel changes, but hopefully we can continue to do the things that allowed us to be successful in 2012.”
Day one began with an early breakfast followed by fitness testing in the weight room before reporting to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center for the team’s first official practice of the fall. Bechard and his staff ran the team through strategies, pass and serve drills and spilt into position groups to highlight the group’s first session on the court.
Voted to finish third in the 2013 Big 12 Conference Preseason Poll, Kansas returns more than 80 percent of its offense from a record-setting 2012 team. The Jayhawks were ranked in the Big 12 and the NCAA in nearly every statistic last fall: 13.20 assists per set (2nd Big 12, 30th NCAA), 2.62 blocks per set (2nd Big 12, 31st NCAA), 14.13 kills per set (3rd Big 12, 34th NCAA), .238 attack percentage (4th Big 12, 57th NCAA), 16.07 digs per set (2nd Big 12, 90th NCAA) and a .788 winning percentage (2nd Big 12, T-22nd NCAA).
As Bechard noted, stellar stats from a year ago means little to his team now. On the first day of camp, the 16-year head coach is once again making sure the fundamentals are in place even with a full cast of veterans.
“Ball handling, motor skills, pass and serve consistency and dig reps – you can’t ever lose sight of that,” Bechard said. “You want to jump right into the 6-on-6 stuff and compete, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that you have new players in the program just because (many of them) have done it so much. We know the drills, the tempo, the goals, but we need to make sure we’re sharing that information so they get as comfortable as they can as quickly as possible.”
KU volleyball’s first All-American, redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, will lead the senior-laden squad. Among the veterans includes the 2012 Big 12’s assists leader in setter Erin McNorton and KU’s all-time digs leader in libero Brianne Riley. All-Big 12 First Team honoree, junior outside hitter Sara McClinton, and sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery, an All-Big 12 Freshman Team member in 2012, also return to reprise their roles.
Adding to their elite core of returners, the Jayhawks also bring in three true freshmen (Emma Hanson, 6-0, OH, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Tayler Soucie, 6-1, MB, Osawatomie, Kan.; Cassie Wait, 5-8, DS/L, Gardner, Kan.) and two redshirt freshmen (Maggie Anderson, 5-8, S, Lincoln, Neb.; Janae Hall, 6-1, MB, Centennial, Colo.).
Hanson made her senior campaign at Sioux Falls Washington High School a memorable one, recording 364 kills on a .328 attack percentage, 325 digs and 33 aces. The Warriors were District Champions for the second-straight season and advanced to the 2A State Championship, where they finished as runners up. Hanson was named All-Conference, All-State, All-Tournament, Team MVP as well as the ESPN 99.1 Athlete of the Week.
Soucie’s 779 kills during her senior season at Osawatomie High School led the country. One of the middle blockers preparing to fill the hole left by four-year starter Tayler Tolefree, Soucie posted 138 solo blocks and a .572 attack percentage, while leading her team to a runner-up finish in the Sub-State Championship in 2012. Aside from Tri-County Player of the Year honors, Soucie was also named All-League First Team, All-State Second Team and All-Metro Second Team.
Wait, who will be groomed to play the back row in college rather than her outside hitter role at Gardner Edgerton High School, comes in with impressive accolades. As an outside hitter, Wait had a highlight reel senior campaign that saw her claim 6A Player of the Year, Under Armour Girls High School All-America First Team and Kansas Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year honors.
Fans can get their first look at the 2013 edition of the Jayhawks at the Crimson and Blue Match, Saturday, Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. Fans are invited to attend free of charge. Kansas officially opens the season on Friday, Aug. 30 against Central Arkansas at 1 p.m. in the first match of the Arizona Invitational in Tucson, Ariz.
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