Volleyball Hosts Jayhawk Classic to Conclude Successful Non-Conference Slate
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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Amidst one of the best starts to a season in program history, Kansas Volleyball (9-0) returns home to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center this weekend to conclude the non-conference schedule as hosts of the Jayhawk Classic, Sept. 18-19. The round-robin tournament features South Dakota State (1-11), Gonzaga (7-3) and Missouri State (7-3).
• Admission is free all season long with a KU Student ID.
• Friday (12 p.m. vs. South Dakota State): FREE hot dog & popcorn with KU Student ID.
• Saturday (7 p.m. vs. Gonzaga): FREE Kansas Jayhawks headband.
• All three matches will be available to view online via ESPN3 or listen online at kuathletics.com/radio.
• Saturday’s match against Missouri State will be simulcast on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and ESPN3.
vs. South Dakota State (KU leads, 2-0): Kansas won the first two meetings against South Dakota State in straight sets in 1975 and 2011.
vs. Gonzaga: First meeting.
vs. Missouri State (MSU leads, 21-6): Missouri State leads the all-time series by 15 matches, but the teams have only faced twice since 2002 – KU winning both times. The Jayhawks have won four of the last five matches against the Bears, including a four-set win the last time the teams met (Sept. 1, 2007). The series dates back to five matches during the 1975 season.
• Kansas will play its final non-conference regular season matches this weekend at the Jayhawk Classic, Sept. 18-19.
• At 9-0, KU is seeking its third undefeated record in non-conference regular season action under Head Coach Ray Bechard. The last Kansas team to complete the non-conference regular season undefeated was in 2004 (9-0).
• Kansas holds a 166-29 (.851) non-conference regular season record under Coach Bechard, including a 57-8 (.877) mark since 2011.
• KU enters the weekend tied for the second-best start in program history.
• The Jayhawks are one win away from tying the team’s best start, which was 10 straight wins to begin the 2001 season.
• Kansas leads the nation in assists (14.0 aps) and kills (15.1 kps), while ranking fifth in attack percentage (.310).
HAVILI PACING THE OFFENSIVE
• Sophomore setter Ainise Havili is at the heart of KU’s NCAA-leading team numbers, including kills and assists.
• Havili’s steady hands lead all NCAA Division I players in assists (12.3 aps).
• Havili also ranks second in the Big 12 in aces per set (0.5) while boasting 21 kills on a .341 attack rate.
• Havili has reached at least 40 assists in the last four matches – three of which only lasted three sets. The Fort Worth, Texas, native posted 46 assists against Marquette (9/12), setting her career high for a three-set match.
• Havili has three double-doubles on the season — at Arkansas (48 assists, 14 digs), against UMKC (44a, 14d), and against Northern Colorado (43a, 10d).
• She earned AVCA All-America honorable Mention Honors last season and entered 2015 as a Preseason All-Big 12 selection.
• Kansas has won all three non-conference tournaments it has competed in so far this season – Arkansas Invitational, Kansas Invitational and Pistol Pete’s Showdown.
• All three round-robin tournaments have featured different MVPs from the Jayhawks: Ainise Havili (Arkansas), Cassie Wait (Kansas), Madison Rigdon (Pistol Pete’s Showdown).
• During KU’s nine-match winning streak, the Jayhawks hold a Big 12-leading 27-2 set record.
• Kansas has swept 7-of-9 opponents, including three teams receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll (Duke, Wyoming, Marquette).
IN THE RANKINGS
• Kansas is ranked No. 17 in this week’s AVCA Coaches’ Poll.
• It is the highest rank for KU in the coaches’ poll since ending the 2013 season also ranked No. 17.
• The Jayhawks have been ranked in the top-25 for two consecutive weeks and have at least received votes in all four polls this season.
• Kansas leads the Big 12 in aces per set (1.8).
• 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 10 reception errors in the first nine matches of the season, while forcing their opponent to commit 52 reception errors.
RIGDON PUTTING UP BALANCED NUMBERS
• Sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon ranks third on the team in both kills (2.8 kps) and digs (2.4 dps).
• Last weekend, the six-rotation player earned MVP honors at Pistol Pete’s Showdown with 3.7 kills and 2.7 digs per set.
• The Pflugerville, Texas, native recorded KU’s first kill-dig double-double of the season against Northern Colorado (9/11) with 12 kills and 15 digs. She capped off the last two matches of the weekend totaling 25 kills on a .327 attack percentage.
PAYNE, DOCKERY LEADING OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION
• Sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne and senior outside hitter Tiana Dockery both rank top-5 in the Big 12 in kills per set.
• Payne ranks second in the Big 12 with 3.9 kills per set on the fifth-best attack percentage in the league (.408).
• Dockery ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 3.6 kills per set.
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 304-226 in his 18th season at KU and 1,020-286 in his 31st season overall.
• Bechard ranks second among Big 12 coaches for victories at a current school behind UT’s Jerritt Elliott (356).
PAYNE NAMED BIG 12 OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
• 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 Sept. 7.
• 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).
• 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.”
On what the 2015 Jayhawks have that his other teams have not:
“I think we have the ability to play pretty fast. We have good ball control and good volleyball IQ. It’s going to come down to the physicality of our team. You lose Chelsea Albers, who was our most physical player the past two or three years, and Sara McClinton, who when playing at her best, was unstoppable. Now, Madison Rigdon can be good, Tiana Dockery can be good, Ashlyn Driskill can be good, Kelsie Payne, etc., but it’s going have to be at a high tempo. We have the opportunity to be a high-level offensive team if we can handle the ball like we hope. We are not going to dominate teams with our block, but we are going to frustrate teams with our defense. If things fall into place and we stay healthy, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.”
On the seven-member freshman class coming back experienced:
“We’re hopeful that the biggest jump for these freshmen is between their freshman and sophomore year. We’re seeing gains from other people, too. We’ll play a little differently, I don’t think we’ll be quite as physical. We’ve got some pretty good volleyball players that have a very high volleyball IQ. We may not have finesse, but we’ll play a little faster and have to defend at a higher level.”
On the middle blockers:
“We went from a very deep group to now, of those three (Tayler Soucie, Kayla Cheadle, Janae Hall), we’ve got have two really good performances every night. That means Cheadle taking on a different role, Janae taking on a different role and hoping Soucie continues to play at the level she has been playing. That doesn’t preclude (Kelsie) Payne from getting some time there if people don’t step up, but I think one of our keys to success this year is how that group of three will come together and work their butt off.”
On the defensive specialists:
“Somebody’s really got to push Cassie Wait to bump her out of that libero spot – and we hope that’s the case that somebody will. Of the other four, we can play two maybe three consistently. We will develop them all. We know that all five of them will have their moment sometime during the season, but we need consistency out of two or three of them so we can play at a high level. We need Addie Barry, Tori Miller and Claire Carpenter, all of whom got extended time this spring, to make a difference. Obviously, Anna Church has had a lot of experience and will contribute to that group.”
On the setters:
“As a freshman to come in and for us to say to Ainise Havili, ‘Hey we need you to lead our team and be great in everything you do.’ That’s a lot to ask, obviously, but she was a stud about it. Plus, you’ve got to talk about Maggie Anderson, because no one drinks the Kool-Aid quite like she does. There’s nothing fake about it. She really loves her team. She loves what KU volleyball stands for. That group, those two setters right there, are pretty good examples of young ladies we really want to coach.”