Join the Jayhawks at the Crimson and Blue Match
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Seven familiar faces and seven brand new ones await the Kansas volleyball faithful that will get its first look at the 2014 Jayhawks at the annual Crimson and Blue alumni match inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center Saturday at 1 p.m. Fans are invited to attend free of charge.
Kansas returns seven letterwinners from a team that finished 25-8 a year ago, highlighted with the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance. The other half of the team, however, will don Jayhawk jerseys for the first time in front of its home crowd. Although the incoming class is ranked the 15th-best in the country, the team will look different after graduating seven seniors last May.
“Our fans are going to need a media guide so hopefully those are ready,” head coach Ray Bechard joked. “We have seven new players that we’re really excited about. Combined, we have 11 freshmen and sophomores. We also have three really, really quality upperclassmen that we’re also excited about. We have a pretty good mix of people that have already played at a high level, not only in our conference, but also in postseason. Hopefully, that means there isn’t too big of a transition. Obviously, we will have our challenges (being a young team) but we’re really looking forward to it.”
Bechard and his staff will split the roster into a “Crimson” team and a “Blue” team for the contest to signify the end of two-a-days preseason camp. Former players will also make an appearance on the floor, as well, amping up the day’s competition.
Bechard, the reigning back-to-back Big 12 Coach of the Year, 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. Texas was voted to win the league, following its seventh Big 12 title and a Final Four run in 2013.
Incoming setter Ainise Havili was named the first Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year for the first time in KU volleyball history. In addition, senior outside hitter Sara McClinton made her second appearance on the Big 12 Preseason Team, while fellow senior outside Chelsea Albers also made the team. Both were All-Big 12 First Team honorees last season and were awarded AVCA All-America Honorable Mention accolades. Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie earned Big 12 Preseason Team honors for the first time, as well.
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KU begins the year ranked No. 22 on the AVCA preseason poll, the second-straight season that the Jayhawks garnered early national attention. A year ago, Kansas tied the program’s highest ranking at No. 17 after posting a second-place finish in the Big 12 standings. Combined with the 2014 preseason ranking, the Jayhawks have appeared on the poll for the last 12-consecutive weeks. Since 2012, Kansas has either been in the top-25 or received votes on 24 of the last 27 national polls. Six of KU’s 2014 opponents are on the preseason poll, including No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Texas.
The Crimson and Blue alumni match will serve as dress rehearsal for the 2014 Kansas Invitational Aug. 29-30. This will mark just the second time in Bechard’s 17 years that Kansas will open the season at home when KU faces Utah Valley, Lipscomb and Creighton – the team that the Jayhawks defeated to advance to the Sweet 16 in December. Grateful and proud of its fan base, KU volleyball’s attendance ranked 23rd in the NCAA last season.
“Their loyalty is unquestionable,” Bechard said of the team’s fans. “They are a huge part of who we are.”
Kansas will officially open the 2014 season on Friday, Aug. 29 against Utah Valley inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. First serve is set for 11:30 a.m. KU will play host to Lipscomb that evening at 7:30 p.m., before wrapping up the tournament against No. 23 Creighton on Aug. 30 at 2 p.m.
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