No. 15 Volleyball Opens Big 12 with Sunflower Showdown
No. 15 Kansas Volleyball will look to extend its 12-match winning streak and the best start in program history when Big 12 Conference play begins with the Dillons Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Wednesday night. First serve between the in-state rivals is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT.
Overall: K-State leads, 61-40
in Lawrence: K-State leads, 28-18
in Manhattan: K-State leads, 26-12
Neutral Sites: Kansas leads, 10-7
• Kansas has won five of the last six meetings with K-State entering Wednesday’s Big 12 opener.
• Last season, KU and K-State split the regular season series with both teams winning on the road.
• In a series that dates back to 1975, KSU leads the all-time mark in matches played in Lawrence, 28-18.
• The Wildcats are led by 15-year head coach Suzie Fritz, who both played (1990-91) and coached (1995-96) under Kansas coach Ray Bechard while in his previous role as the head coach at Barton County Community College.
• Kansas State was voted to finish fifth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll.
• Kansas makes its Big 12 road debut in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 26 against TCU (2 p.m. CT).
• Five Jayhawks hail from the state of Texas, including two from the Dallas-Fort Worth area — Ainise Havili (Fort Worth) and Claire Carpenter (Rockwall).
SCHEDULE TIME CHANGE
• First serve for the West Virginia match in Lawrence on Oct. 3 has been moved to 4 p.m. CT.
BIG 12 OPENERS
• Kansas is 6-13 in Big 12 openers since the league’s inception in 1996.
• The Jayhawks have won two of the last three Big 12 openers.
• Last season, Kansas began Big 12 play with three straight losses, only to recover to finish 10-6 and tied for second place.
• Kansas Volleyball moved up two spots to No. 15 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll. It is the highest ranking in program history for KU.
• Last week’s No. 17 ranking was tied for the highest ranking in program history. The 2013 Jayhawks finished the season also ranked No. 17.
• The Jayhawks have been ranked in the top-25 for three consecutive weeks and have at least received votes in all five polls this season.
• KU leads the nation in assists (14.4) and kills (15.5), while ranking fourth in hitting percentage (.331). Sophomore setter Ainise Havili, this week’s Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, leads the nation in assists per set (12.4).
• Kansas finished non-conference play undefeated (12-0) with three wins in the Jayhawk Classic last weekend. KU’s 12-match winning streak is the best start to a season in program history.
• The Jayhawks are one of seven remaining undefeated teams at the NCAA Division I level.
“Because our team is so balanced, I think we will be talking about someone new each match.”
• Those preseason words from Head Coach Ray Bechard proved to be prophetic during non-conference play. In the four non-conference tournaments KU has won this season, there have been four tournament MVPs.
• Arkansas Invitational MVP: Ainise Havili, S
• Kansas Invitational MVP: Cassie Wait, L
• Pistol Pete’s Showdown MVP: Madison Rigdon, OH
• Jayhawk Classic MVP: Tiana Dockery, OH
• During KU’s 12-match winning streak, the Jayhawks hold a Big 12-leading 36-3 set record.
• Kansas has swept 9-of-12 opponents, including three teams receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Poll (Duke, Wyoming, Marquette).
• The Jayhawks have yet to play a five-set match this season.
• KU finished non-conference regular season play undefeated for the third time under head coach Ray Bechard.
• The other two Kansas teams under Bechard to complete the non-conference regular season undefeated was in 2004 (9-0) and 2000 (9-0).
• Kansas holds a 169-29 (.854) non-conference regular season record under Coach Bechard, including a 60-8 (.882) mark since 2011.
BEST START IN PROGRAM HISOTRY
• At 12-0, Kansas is off to its best start in program history.
• With a win over Gonzaga on Friday, Sept. 18, the Jayhawks set the record for the best start in program history at 11-0, passing 2001’s mark of 10-0.
• Kansas leads the Big 12 in aces per set (1.7).
• 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 16 reception errors in the first 12 matches of the season, while forcing their opponent to commit 69 reception errors.
KU AWARDED SECOND BIG 12 WEEKLY HONOR
• Sophomore setter Ainise Havili was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 22. Havili led the Jayhawks in wins over South Dakota State, Gonzaga and Missouri State, with 12.7 assists per set as KU hit a combined .396 with 15.5 kills per set. The Fort Worth, Texas, native also recorded a season-high 51 assists against Gonzaga (9/18).
• Sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week 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).
• Kelsie Payne – Offensive Player of the Week (9/7)
• Ainise Havili – Offensive Player of the Week (9/22)
HAVILI SETTING THE TONE
• 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 (12.4 aps).
• Havili also ranks second in the Big 12 in aces per set (0.4) while boasting 30 kills on a .303 attack rate.
• Havili has reached at least 40 assists in six of the last seven matches, including a season-high 51 assists against Gonzaga (9/18).
• 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), against Northern Colorado (43a, 10d), and against Gonzaga (51a, 11d).
• She earned AVCA All-America honorable Mention Honors last season and entered 2015 as a Preseason All-Big 12 selection.
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 second-best attack percentage in the league (.427).
• Dockery ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 3.4 kills per set.
RIGDON PUTTING UP BALANCED NUMBERS
• Sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon ranks third on the team in both kills (3.1 kps) and digs (2.4 dps).
• The six-rotation player earned MVP honors at Pistol Pete’s Showdown with 3.7 kills and 2.7 digs per set during the event.
• 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.
• Rigdon enters conference play after reaching double-figure kills in five of the last six matches.
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 ranks second among Big 12 coaches for victories at their current school, behind UT’s Jerritt Elliott.
• 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.