Jayhawks Head South to Start Home-and-Home with Arkansas

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Ready for the fifth-straight road match to start the 2013 season, Kansas will travel to SEC territory to face Arkansas for the first of a home-and-home series with the Razorbacks, inside Barnhill Arena Thursday at 7 p.m.
Vs. Arkansas (Series Tied, 3-3): All six meetings between the Razorbacks and Jayhawks have taken place since the 2003 season, and the Razorbacks were one of the three teams Kansas hosted in the NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds last season. Although KU and UA didn’t square off in the tournament, the two did play each other in a preseason tournament a year ago. After Kansas took the first set, Arkansas charged back and took the next three tightly-contested frames for the win. The teams have never played twice in a season.
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  • The Jayhawks haven’t started the season with five-straight road matches since the 2007 season, opening the season at tournaments hosted by Oregon and then Michigan State.
  • Kansas is the only team in the Big 12 with three players in the top-10 in the conference in kills per set. Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc leads the team and ranks third in the conference with 4.27 kps. Junior outsides Chelsea Albers (3.27) and Sara McClinton (3.25) rank eighth and ninth, respectively.
  • As a unit, the Jayhawk offense ranks second in the league in kills per set (15.40), while ironically being second to last in attack percentage (.239).
  • Led by senior setter Erin McNorton, KU never ranked lower than second in assists per set last season. The 2013 campaign is starting in similar fashion as KU checks in at second, behind Iowa State (15.20), with a 14.13 average.
  • What McNorton does for KU’s assists presence in the Big 12, senior libero Brianne Riley does in the digs department. Kansas leads the league with 18.40 digs per set, led by Riley’s 4.67 average.
  • Texas Tech (245) is the only team in the Big 12 with more total kills than the Jayhawks’ 231.

The Jayhawks and Razorbacks last met on Aug. 25, 2012 with Arkansas walking away with a 3-1 victory. Then-sophomore Sara McClinton and redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael led the offense from the outsides, accumulating 30 of KU’s 56 kills in the match. The Jayhawks out-blocked the home team 16-5, but couldn’t hold off the Arkansas offense led by senior Jasmine Norton’s 20 kills.
Senior libero Brianne Riley recorded 15 digs at UMKC on Tuesday, breaking her into the Big 12’s all-time career top-10 list. Her 1,568 career digs tie Nebraska’s Jennifer Saleaumua (Nebraska, 2002-05) for 10th-most all-time in Big 12 history.
KU’s comeback victory at Arizona (8/31) marked Ray Bechard‘s 250th win at Kansas. The winningest coach in program history. Bechard is the only Jayhawk coach with 250-plus wins, and his 251 ranks fourth all-time among Big 12 Conference coaches. John Cook (Nebraska, 336), Laurie Corbelli (Texas A&M, 330) and Jerritt Elliott (Texas, 297) have collected more overall wins in their time in the Big 12, with Elliott and Bechard being the only coaches on the list still in the conference.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc picked up her 1,000th career kill in less than 15 minutes on Tuesday at UMKC and finished with 19 on the night to land at 1,015. KU’s career record is 1,483 (Josi Lima, 2002-05), but the top-10 list begins with Cyndee Kanabel’s 1,122 career kills (1990-93). Only Kansas State’s Kaitlynn Pelger has more career kills on the Big 12’s active-player career list.
The Jayhawks dug 82 balls in their win at Arizona (8/31). The last time the Jayhawks dug up 80-plus balls in a four-set match was Oct. 1, 2011 in a 3-1 win at Baylor. Five Jayhawks tallied double-digit digs: Chelsea Albers (18), Jaime Mathieu (11), Erin McNorton (14), Riley (22) and Cassie Wait (11) – also a first since the 2011 season (vs. Oklahoma, 11/16/11).
Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton cranked out 37 kills in the eight sets she played last weekend in Arizona. She led the Jayhawks in kills during their victories against Morgan State (16) and Arizona (18) to earn Arizona Invitational All-Tournament Team honors. Fellow junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers also put up an all-star weekend with two double-doubles in three matches, including a career-high in kills (16) and digs (18). It also was the first time since Aug. 2011 that Caroline Jarmoc was not named to an All-Tournament Team.
In only four matches this season, Chelsea Albers has recorded three double-doubles, the first, second and third of her career. Meanwhile, senior setter Erin McNorton has racked them up in back-to-back matches heading into Thursday and has 13 career double-doubles.
Although the Jayhawks fell out of the Top-25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches Poll, they are still receiving votes. That makes 12-straight weeks that Kansas has had presence on the national poll.
SCOUTING ARKANSAS (3-1 Overall, 0-0 SEC)
Voted to finish third in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll (Western Division), Arkansas is led by six-year head coach Robert Pulliza. He and his staff brought in a recruiting class ranked 16th-best in the country by PrepVolleyball.com, the highest-ranked incoming class in the SEC.
What the rookies don’t have, the veterans will as the Razorbacks return nine letterwinners and two redshirt freshmen from last year’s team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including a six-member senior class. Senior outside hitter Haley Koop leads the returning players with 3.21 kills per set, while fellow senior Raymariely Santos paces the offense with 7.29 assists per set. Senior libero Emily Helm leads the back row with a 3.86 dig average. She and Santos are the only Razorbacks to start last year’s match against Kansas.
Arkansas is getting plenty of production out of its newcomers, too, with redshirt freshman middle blocker Ana Sofia Jusino leading the squad with a .426 attack percentage. A junior transfer from New Mexico State, outside hitter Meredith Hays, tallies the team’s best kills average with 3.93 per set.
On this year’s Arkansas team:
“They lost some of their offensive fire power from last year, but replaced it with some really good athletes and size. They have a winning mentality. Last year was a big year for their program – much like ours – and they’re having a lot of residual carry over from that. They’ve won three of their last four and I think they feel like they’re in a position to make a good run through the SEC. I think their goal is to return to the NCAA Tournament. This might be our toughest road match to date. You look at Arizona as a formidable challenge and I thought UMKC was geared up to play us, but Arkansas will be a really good challenge for us.”
On the home-and-home weekend:
“It is different, but I think it’s an opportunity to play a good team twice, which I think will help us. Right now, I don’t know if we see it that way, but hopefully we will down the road. We have a lot of respect for their program and we try to play them every year and every spring. Every time we get together with them, it’s a really good match and it makes our team better.”
On the training challenges this schedule provides:
“Typcially, you get a couple of pretty heavy training days. We’re still going to get three matches this week, they’re just going to be spaced differently. Obviously our high-minute players don’t get as much repetition during the non-match days. We can still work on some things. This will be an interesting setup to play them back-to-back to see what adjustments each team makes by Saturday.”
Kansas will play its first home match of the season when the Jayhawks turn around and bring Arkansas to Lawrence for a 1 p.m. Saturday match inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
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