Volleyball Set to Face Quality Opponents in Wyoming
Kansas Volleyball looks to continue one of the best starts in program history this weekend in a trip to Laramie, Wyoming, to compete in Pistol Pete’s Showdown with host Wyoming, Northern Colorado and Marquette.
vs. Northern Colorado (UNC leads, 2-1): Kansas and Northern Colorado meet for the first time in nearly 30 years on Friday. Kansas won the last meeting in five sets on Nov. 8, 1987 in Greely, Colorado.
vs. rv Wyoming (KU leads, 4-1): Kansas is 3-0 against Wyoming under Coach Ray Bechard. This weekend marks the third road contest against Wyoming (1-1). The series dates back to a three-set KU win on Oct. 9, 1987. Wyoming assistant Dan Georgalas is a former volunteer assistant on Coach Bechard’s staff at KU.
vs. rv Marquette: First meeting.
BECHARD REACHES 300 WINS AT KANSAS
• In his 18th season at the helm, KU volleyball’s winningest coach Ray Bechard reached his 300th win at Kansas against Duke on Sept. 4.
• His milestone at KU comes just one year after collecting career victory No. 1,000.
• Bechard holds records of 301-226 in his 18th season at KU and 1,017-286 in his 31st season overall.
• Bechard ranks second among Big 12 coaches for victories at a current school behind UT’s Jerritt Elliott (353).
• Kansas (6-0) is the last remaining undefeated team in the Big 12 Conference.
• KU’s undefeated record through the first six matches is tied for the eighth-best start in program history.
• The longest winning streak to begin a season was 10 wins in 2001.
• At the root of KU’s undefeated start lies the top team hitting percentage in the Big 12 (.334) and the second-ranked defensive hitting percentage in the Big 12 (.135).
• The Jayhawks also pace the Big 12 in assists (13.8), kills (15.1), and aces (2.5), while ranking third in digs (15.9).
TOP-25 SEASON DEBUT
• Kansas made its top-25 season debut in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll on Monday at No. 22 after starting 6-0.
• The Jayhawks had been receiving votes in previous two coaches polls this season.
• KU’s 6-0 start includes a straight-set win over Duke, which is receiving votes in the poll.
• It marks KU’s first return to the top-25 since September of last season.
JAYHAWKS SWEEP KANSAS INVITATIONAL
• KU opened the 2015 home schedule with three straight-set wins in the Kansas Invitational against Western Illinois, Duke and UMKC.
• Junior libero Cassie Wait earned Tournament MVP honors after leading KU (6-0) to another stout defense efforts, continuing a trend of no KU opponents recording a hitting percentage above.200 this season.
Cassie Wait: “The goal is to come out and play our best every game. It’s all about controlling our side of the court. It’s such a big part of the game and I think when we do that we give ourselves the best opportunity to come out and win like we did this weekend. It’s pretty awesome.”
PAYNE AWARDED FIRST BIG 12 WEEKLY HONOR
• Seemingly unfazed by her change from middle blocker in 2014 to right-side hitter in 2015, sophomore Kelsie Payne continued her nearly unstoppable start to the season over the weekend to earn Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time on Monday.
• Payne led KU with 37 kills in three 3-set wins during the Kansas Invitational to earn All-Tournament honors. In KU’s three victories, she posted a combined .464 attack percentage, including a match with no attacking errors against UMKC (13k-0e-26a).
• The Austin, Texas native leads the Big 12 in kills per set (4.1) and her.450 attack percentage ranks third-best in the league.
• It is the first Big 12 weekly honor for Payne. Last season, the Jayhawks took home four Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.
HAVILI PACING THE OFFENSIVE
• Sophomore setter Ainise Havili is at the heart of KU’s conference-best team numbers, which include 15.1 kills per set and a .334 hitting percentage.
• Individually, Havili’s steady hands lead the Big 12 in assists per set (12.0) and aces per set (0.7). The Fort Worth, Texas native also picks the right time to attack at a high rate with 14 kills on 26 attacks and just three errors (.423 attack percentage).
• Havili has two double-doubles on the season — at Arkansas (48 assists, 14 digs) and against UMKC (44 assists, 14 digs).
• She earned AVCA All-America honorable Mention Honors last season and entered 2015 as a Preseason All-Big 12 selection.
• Kansas leads the Big 12 in aces per set (2.5) by a wide margin. The next closest team is Iowa State with 1.4 aces per set.
• KU has reached double-figure aces in a match twice this season — at Arkansas (10) and against Western Illinois (12).
• On the defensive side, Kansas is putting up quality receiving numbers as well. The Jayhawks have committed just eight reception errors in the first six matches of the season, while forcing their opponent to commit 48 reception errors.
ARKANSAS INVITATIONAL RECAP
• Kansas opened the season as victors of the Arkansas Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
• The season-opening weekend featured sweeps of Army and McNeese State, and a four-set comeback victory over host Arkansas.
• Sophomore setter Ainise Havili was awarded Tournament MVP honors after leading KU’s offense to a team .330 attacking percentage and totaling nine aces in three matches.
• Junior Cassie Wait took home Outstanding Libero honors after averaging 4.8 digs per set, while senior outside hitter Tiana Dockery (3.1 k/s) and sophomore right-side Kelsie Payne (4.1 k/s; .438) were listed on the All-Tournament team.
• In 2015, the Jayhawks set their sights on turning their run of success into an unprecedented streak. Never in Kansas volleyball history has the program been to four-straight NCAA Tournaments.
• Senior Tiana Dockery could become the first Jayhawk in program history to play in the NCAAs four times.
• The Jayhawks will square off against eight NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago and three squads that appeared in the final 2014 AVCA poll. Of the 20 opponents on KU’s schedule, all but four were top-100 RPI teams last fall.
BIG 12 PRESEASON POLL
• Three starters and the libero return from a 2014 team that ended the year 22-9, giving KU three-straight 20-win seasons for the first time since 1980-81-82. Even with the depth returning – 12 letterwinners in all –Bechard wasn’t surprised that the league coaches picked his team fourth despite finishing second each of the last two seasons. KU’s offensive production leaders from a year ago, Sara McClinton and Chelsea Albers, finished their careers as two-time All-Big 12 First Team and AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honorees.
A seven-member recruiting class that ranked in the top-15 last fall now means seven returning sophomores with a lot of experience – specifically returning starting setter Ainise Havili. The AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honoree is back after leading the Big 12 in assists. Kelsie Payne ranked in the top-10 in blocks and attack percentage, while Kayla Cheadle posted the second-best attack percentage in the conference.
JAYHAWKS ON THE MAP
From May 18-30, the Jayhawks traveled to Europe on a training trip aimed at combining cultural education with intense practices and competition. The team went 6-1 in its matches played between training sessions and travel to destinations in Italy, France and Spain. The seven matches against foreign competition, including the high-caliber Italian Federation, put the Jayhawks ahead of schedule when they reported for the season on Aug. 9.
STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER
Of the 36 athletes that USA Volleyball selected to participate in the U.S. Collegiate National Team (CNT) program, three of them were Jayhawks. Outside hitter Tiana Dockery, setter Ainise Havili and right side Kelsie Payne ventured to New Orleans to train and compete in conjunction with the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships from June 21-29. Playing for the CNT Blue Team, Dockery and Payne led their squad to a championship finish.
In the offseason, KU’s senior class tripled in size. Where outside hitter Tiana Dockery might become the first player to play in four-straight NCAA Tournaments, the Jayhawks also welcome senior transfers Anna Church and Ashlyn Driskill. Church was a stud libero and defensive specialist at Saint Louis University, racking up more than 1,000 career digs. Driskill comes to KU after graduating with a chemistry degree in three years from Wichita State University.
2014 AT A GLANCE
• The Big 12 awarded a program-record six Jayhawks with all-conference honors – the most of any team in the league.
• The Jayhawks earned a national seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight season (No. 16). KU joined perennial volleyball powers Stanford, Texas, Washington, Penn State, Florida, Kentucky and Nebraska as the only other teams in the country to earn a national seed in each of the last three years.
• After starting 0-3 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks won 10 of their last 13 conference contests to finish the season tied for second place in the Big 12. Prior to 2013, Kansas had never finished second – now the team has done it twice in a row.
• During the regular season, KU played 10 teams that received an NCAA Tournament berth in 2014 and the Jayhawks went 7-7 against them.
• In the Big 12, the Jayhawk offense led the league in kills (1,627) and ranked second in kills per set (13.79), assists per set (12.82) assists (1,513) and digs (1,811). KU’s overall winning percentage (22-9, .710) tied for second among its conference counterparts.
• Freshman setter Ainise Havili set the tone in the conference with her 1,332 assists and 11.29 assists per set, both of which were the best by all Big 12 setters in 2014 and were among the top-20 in the nation. What’s more, her 1,332 assists broke the KU freshman record.
• Havili also chalked up 14 double-doubles on the year (assists/digs) – the third-most DDs in the Big 12 and the most by a freshman. That also tied her for 10th-most in a season at Kansas.
• Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie completed the season as the conference’s blocking leader. Her 1.40 blocks per set ranked 18th in the NCAA.
• Sophomore libero Cassie Wait became the third Jayhawk in program history to surpass 500 digs in a season (Brianne Riley twice, Catalina Suarez). Her 561 digs were the second-most all-time at Kansas in a single season, while her 4.75 dig average was the program’s third-best.
• Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers became just the seventh Jayhawk in history to post 900-career kills and 800-career digs in a single-season.
• Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton finished her tenure in sixth place on KU’s all-time career kills list. McClinton had 1,272 for four-year career, landing her just 10 kills short of Amanda Reves’ fifth all-time 1,282 kills from 2008-11.
On the tournament in Wyoming:
“We thought this tournament would be pretty competitive when we originally signed to participate in it because they all finished in the NCAA RPI top-100 last season. With the improvements these rosters have made in the offseason and the results so far this season, it is looking to be one of the most competitive and balanced tournaments in college volleyball this weekend. Even though none of our opponents are from power five conferences, they are all established as good volleyball programs. We will have to respond to everybody’s best effort this weekend and we are looking forward to that challenge.”
On the team’s success:
“The team enjoys being in the gym together. They have created a pretty good competitive chemistry, but that is easy to develop if you haven’t lost yet. We will be face with adversity at some point this weekend and it will be interesting to see how we respond to that. We are serving well – the ace-to-error ratio is pretty good. We are hitting for decent number. If you are doing those two things well, you can stay in every match. We have an opportunity to improve on blocking.
On the possibility of an unprecedented season:
“Unprecedented is something we have talked about. We have not won a Big 12 Championship. We have not gotten past the Sweet 16. So there are things to achieve out there, but I think you can’t lose sight of what an honor it is to be selected to the NCAA Tournament, how hard that is. We aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves there. A few years ago the goal was (getting into) the NCAA Tournament. Now that’s still one of the goals, but it’s one on the way to some of the other things we are trying to accomplish.”