No. 22 Kansas Gets Win 700 in Season Opener
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Fresh off of the team’s first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, No. 22 Kansas started the 2014 season by picking up the 700th win in program history. Led by senior outside hitter Sara McClinton and Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year, Ainise Havili, the Jayhawks stormed past the Utah Valley Wolverines in three sets: 25-11, 25-16, 25-18, Friday afternoon in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
Since seven freshmen took the floor for the first time, including three that started, Kansas (1-0) had question marks heading into the season debut. Youth didn’t stop the Jayhawks from being impressive as the offensive posted a blistering .405 attack percentage, while holding Utah Valley (0-1) to just .084. McClinton led the Jayhawks with nine kills, six of which came in the final set. Havili kept her squad active, dishing out 28 assists and a steady rhythm. The Jayhawks’ committed only nine errors in 79 swings – a solid effort to open KU’s 40th season of volleyball and 700th all-time win.
Freshman outside hitter Madison Rigdon tallied six
kills and no errors in her collegiate debut.”I’ve been here for some of them so that’s fun,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “But a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players have been a part of that. I think it is something that all of Jayhawk volleyball can feel good about. It’s a good way to get the season going.”
Havili nearly collected a double-double in her first career start with eight digs to complement her 28 assists. Middle blocker Kayla Cheadle and defensive specialist Addison Barry also earned a starting spot in their collegiate debuts. Fellow rookie Madison Rigdon checked in and pounded out six kills and no errors to lead the team with a .600 attack percentage. She also tallied a pair of aces.
Setting the example, several returners had a good start to their season, as well. McClinton’s senior counterpart, Chelsea Albers, and sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie churned out eight kills apiece. The duo led the defense at the net as Soucie recorded a team-high four blocks and Albers had three. Cheadle also stepped up for three blocks. Behind them, sophomore Cassie Wait made her first career start at libero and led the team with 10 digs.
Last season, the Wolverines ended with an 18-15 record, and an 11-5 mark in the Western Athletic Conference to tie for third. They returned 10 letterwinners, including five of their seven starters. On Friday, sophomore Macky Treanor and senior Kalani Norris paced the opponents with eight kills each. Freshman setter Sierra Starley set up 16 assists.
Opening the season in dominating form, Kansas led the first set from start to finish. The Jayhawks opened the first set on an 8-0 run and finished on a 9-0 run, propelling them to convincingly win the set, 25-11. Led by Soucie and Albers, Kansas jumped out to an early 8-0 lead. Albers, junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery and Soucie led the initial charge by scoring on seven of the squad’s first eight points. Moments later, Havili blasted an ace on the first serve of her career, pushing the lead to 14-6. Utah Valley slowly battled back, but the closest they would come would be 16-11. Minutes later, a sharp kill from Soucie ignited a 9-0 run to take a one-set lead.
In the second set, KU would again close the frame out on a big run, this time five-straight points wrapped up the set as KU took a 2-0 match lead. Tied at 3-3, Albers blasted a kill to spark a 3-0 rally, giving Kansas an early 6-3 lead. However, the Wolverines responded with a 3-0 run of their own, tying the game at 6-6. Rigdon and Soucie came through with timely aces to put the Jayhawks in front, 10-7. After three-straight points by Utah Valley cut Kansas’ lead down to 15-14. A pair of kills from Rigdon and Soucie propelled Kansas on a 5-0 run to increase the lead to a comfortable 20-14. Utah Valley crept back, but Kansas finished off the Wolverines on a 5-0 run thanks to a block-kill combo from Cheadle.
McClinton opened by the third set by making her presence known, registering kills on three of the first four points to give Kansas an early 4-2 lead. The Jayhawks and Wolverines battled back-and-forth for much of the third set, which featured several ties. Late in the match, the Jayhawks proved to be too much again. Kills by McClinton and Cheadle capped off a 5-0 run, putting them up 23-17. An attacking error by Utah Valley and a McClinton kill sealed the Jayhawk sweep, 25-18.
- Kansas is now 700-675 all time with head coach Ray Bechard collecting 274 of those wins in his 17th season at KU and 30th overall.
- Bechard also tallied the 990th win of his own career.
- Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie made her 23rd-consecutive starts and collected a career-high two aces.
- Sophomore setter Maggie Anderson tied her career-high with two aces. As a team, Kansas totaled seven aces and surrendered only one.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton’s nine kills puts her at 964 for her career.
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