1,000 and Counting: Bechard Reaches Milestone in Win
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Tying her career high, freshman middle blocker Kayla Cheadle took to the stage with a match-high 14 kills for No. 24 Kansas, scooting the Jayhawks past Cleveland State in four sets Friday evening inside the Horejsi Family Athletic Center, 25-14, 18-25, 25-14, 25-19.
Center stage, however, went to head coach Ray Bechard. In his 30th season overall, and his 17th as the leader of the Jayhawks, Bechard chalked up career win No. 1,000. A Kansas native, Bechard is the back-to-back defending Big 12 Coach of the Year and the winningest coach in Kansas volleyball history with a career mark of 1,000-279 (284-219 at Kansas).
“It’s more about good players, more about good coaches,” Bechard said, deferring personal credit for the milestone to those around him. “I’ve always tried to work hard to prepare our team the best we could. That’s what we did against Cleveland State tonight and that’s what we’ll do with Arkansas tomorrow. To be able to coach at your dream school and bring some pride to our athletic department, I think that’s what our volleyball program has done, means a lot.”
Excited for the opportunity to bring home a milestone win for their head coach, the Jayhawks put together a solid opening set before dropping set two before the break. With the big win in sight, KU locked down sets three and four to seal the victory. A well-balanced combo of seniors and freshmen registered double-digit kills for the Jayhawks. Cheadle set the bar with 14, senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers followed with 13, fellow senior Sara McClinton and freshman outside hitter Madison Rigdon each tallied 11. The rookies filled up the leaderboard on Friday night with setter Ainise Havili recording her fifth double-double of the season, while freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne set career-highs in kills (8) and blocks (6).
Sophomore libero Cassie Wait helped Havili spread the ball around with five assists and led the team with 17 digs.
With an attack percentage of .452, Kansas dominated the opening set offensively. Led by Cheadle and Albers, the Jayhawk duo paced the floor with four and five kills, respectfully. McClinton started off the scoring for the Jayhawks by registering a pair of kills to open the match. The Jayhawks rushed ahead, scoring seven of the next eight points and surging to a commanding 13-5 lead. Payne smashed a kill to ignite another impressive run, which featured a couple of kills from Albers and an ace from freshman defensive specialist Addison Barry, giving Kansas a comfortable 20-8 lead. The Vikings managed to fight back a series of points, but a kill from junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery followed by an ace from Wait lifted the Jayhawks, 25-14.
A relentless Cleveland State attack of .500 headlined set two. The Vikings took their first lead of the match, and jumped out to an early 3-1 lead. The two squads clashed back-and-forth through the middle portion of the set, but Kansas was unable to capture momentum from the Vikings, falling behind 20-14. Rigdon managed to keep the Jayhawks alive after several kills, but the Vikings shut the door in second set, winning 25-18.
Looking to reclaim the momentum, Kansas began the third set by seizing a quick 3-0 lead. Cleveland State answered with two points, but Payne and McClinton blasted a pair of kills to spark a 3-0 run and push the Jayhawks ahead, 7-3. Albers and Cheadle made sure the Vikings wouldn’t close the gap. The Jayhawk duo dominated the middle portion the set, swinging away for several kills each, which kept the KU lead at four, 15-11. After the media timeout, Kansas charged ahead with a pair of 4-0 runs, putting them ahead 24-13. Seconds later, Rigdon blasted the final kill, giving Kansas the set, 25-14.
Looking to put away the Vikings, Kansas raced ahead late in the set to win their second match of the day. Albers ignited the scoring, and consecutive kills from teammates Rigdon, McClinton and Cheadle pushed the Jayhawks into the early lead, 4-2. Cleveland State responded with four points of their own to climb back on top 6-4, but McClinton blasted a kill to trigger a 4-0 Kansas run, reclaiming an 8-6 lead. Both sides kept the match close until Cheadle slammed down three consecutive kills, to break open the set. Cheadle’s kills were a part of a run that saw Kansas score five of six points, breaking the match open 20-14. A string of Viking errors closed it out as Kansas took the set, and match, 25-18.
- Head coach Ray Bechard eclipsed win No. 1,000 on Friday night. His 716 wins at Barton County Community earned him an induction into the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 1998 – his first season at Kansas. Since then, his 284 wins at Kansas are the second-most among active Big 12 coaches.
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton needs 54 kills to pass Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th on the all-time Kansas career list. She recorded double-digit kills against UNT, the 53rd time in her career that she’s tallied 10 or more.
- Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne’s 14 kills tied a career-high, while fellow rookie middle Kelsie Payne notched career-highs in kills (8) and blocks (6).
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili picked up her fifth double-double (45 assists/14 digs).
No. 24 Kansas will go after its third tournament crown on Saturday when the Jayhawks square off against also unbeaten Arkansas. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.
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