Alumni Showdown Set for Crimson and Blue Match
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time in a long time, Kansas volleyball won’t merely face off against one another in its annual Crimson and Blue Match. On Saturday, Aug. 22, the Jayhawks will welcome a list of heavy hitters to form an alumni team to oppose the 2015 squad.
First serve is set for 1 p.m., inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. Free to the public, the event will kick off with the 2014 NCAA Tournament banner unveiling before the showdown gets underway.
“Oh yeah, they’ll be talking the talk, we’ll see if they can walk the walk,” head coach Ray Bechard joked about his former players. “I’m sure there will be a little bit of protecting the turf that alumni used to have and, hopefully, that our team is currently trying to protect. It’s always a thrill to have alumni back, and this is a very willing group. That is very cool that they have taken time out of their busy schedules to come back and give back to the younger players.”
Six members of the infamous 2013 NCAA Sweet 16 team will make their way back to Lawrence. Two-time All-Big 12 First Team stars from last year’s senior class, Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton, will be there. The 2013 Big 12 Setter of the Year, Erin McNorton, is back in the U.S. after playing professionally. She joins the legendary backcourt duo of Jaime Mathieu and Brianne Riley. Riley holds the Kansas record for career digs and is fourth all-time in Big 12 history. From the same 2013 senior class, Catherine Carmichael will reprise her sparkplug role in the offense, taking a pause from her duties as the assistant director of recruiting for Kansas football.
The 2012 Big 12 Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Tayler Tolefree, will hold it down for the middle blockers. She brings back multiple blocking statistics that still rank among the top-10 in school history. Allison Mayfield, who set the Kansas all-time record for most kills in a season in 2011, will take a break from her professional career for the event.
On the other side of the net, however, the current Jayhawks are prepared for their veteran counterparts. Kansas is coming off of its third-straight 20+ win season, the first such streak since the early 1980s. The team is looking for an unprecedented fourth-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament and is receiving votes in the 2015 AVCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll. After back-to-back second-place finishes, the Jayhawks were voted to finish fourth in the Big 12 preseason poll.
Tiana Dockery leads the way as the only four-year senior on the squad with the versatility to block, pass, dig and attack from the outside hitter position. She earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades last season and could become the only Jayhawk to play in four-consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Middle blocker Tayler Soucie returns for her junior season after leading the conference in blocks per set (1.40) in 2014. Fellow junior, Cassie Wait, will reprise her starting libero role. She joins Riley as one of three Jayhawks to post more than 500 digs in a season (561; 2014).
Sophomores Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne hope to pick up where they left off after stellar freshman seasons. Havili broke the KU record for assists by a freshman (1,332), which led the Big 12 and earned her AVCA All-America honorable mention recognition. Payne ranked in the top-10 last fall in attack percentage (.341) and blocks per set (1.06). Add the rest of the current Jayhawks and a competitive match will follow.
“This will probably be the best alumni group we’ve had together, so this will be very good for our team,” Bechard said. “Even if we get into an intrasquad later in the day, it’ll still be great for our team to compete against some familiar faces.”
Kansas will welcome reporters to Hadl Auditorium to the annual Fall Sports Media Day on Wednesday, August 19, at 1 p.m.
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