Kansas Welcomes U-23 Italian National Team

Kansas vs. U-23 Italian National Team
Horejsi Family Athletics Center // Lawrence
Sept. 25, 2013
Wednesday 6:30 p.m.
Audio Jayhawk Digital Passport
Video KUAthletics.com/ESPN
Notes Kansas 

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Preparing to end the pre-conference tournament season and begin Big 12 Conference play, Kansas will host a unique exhibition match against the U-23 Italian National Team, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

· Family Night – Two Adult GA/Two Youth GA; Four Drinks, Two Popcorn: $30
· Faculty Free Midweek Game – All KU faculty/staff/state employees free w/ valid ID
Fans can listen to radio play-by-play on the Jayhawk Digital Passport, found under the Fan Central tab on KUAthletics.com. Subscriptions are available in daily ($2.95), monthly ($6.95) and yearly ($49.95) increments. Aaron Berlin will have the call.
For those that can’t make it to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Wednesday’s match will air on ESPN3.com. Fans can access the TV stream by going to ESPN3.com or visiting KUAthletics.com/ESPN. Leif Lisec and former Kansas volleyball player Jill Dorsey-Hall will provide the analysis. For more information on accessing Kansas video content, visit KUAthletics.com/TV. Fans can also monitor the action on Live Stats or by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
· Wednesday’s match will not count toward the Jayhawks’ win-loss record nor will the stats be official due to it being exhibition.
· Kansas wrapped up its non-conference tournament schedule with two outright titles (Kansas Invitational, InnTowner Invitational) and a share of its third tourney of the fall (Arizona Invitational).
· The Jayhawks enter the week on a six-match winning streak, tying the second-longest victory span from last season. KU posted win streaks of five, six and nine matches in 2012.
· Kansas has seen four Jayhawks honored by the Big 12 in the last three-consecutive weeks. The latest installment is freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie and senior setter Erin McNorton. The duo earned Big 12 Rookie and Offensive Player of the Week, respectively, on Sept. 23 – career firsts for both.
· A national team seems like a fitting way to end a brutal non-conference season. KU faced teams from the ACC (Notre Dame), the PAC-12 (Arizona), the SEC (Arkansas, Georgia), the BIG EAST (Creighton) and the Big Ten (Wisconsin) in the opening weeks of the season.
· McNorton remains atop the Big 12 assists leaderboard for the third-straight week with 628 assists and 12.08 assists per set – the only Big 12 setter with more than 600 assists and 12 per set, which also ranks sixth nationally. The Dallas native ranked in the top-10 in the NCAA all of 2012.
· Soucie took charge of the net last week for the Jayhawks, averaging 1.44 blocks per set during the Kansas Invitational. Oklahoma’s All-American Sallie McLaurin (1.39) is the only middle in the league  averaging more blocks per frame than Soucie (1.33).
· Entering the week, Kansas checks in at third or better among Big 12 teams in: kills (14.21, 1st), assists (13.29, 1st), digs (15.98, 3rd), hitting percentage (.256, 3rd), opponent hitting percentage (.170, 3rd) and blocks (2.69, 3rd).
The Jayhawks rattled off a .364 attack percentage for the entirety of the Kansas Invitational (9/20-22). Against North Dakota State (9/20), KU posted a .458 efficiency (56K-12E-96TA) – just .10 shy of the Horejsi Family Athletics Center record – which was set in 2009 vs. Texas Tech.
During the six-match win streak, Kansas lost just five sets and put on an impressive performances on both sides of the ball. Offensively, redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, junior outside hitter Sara McClinton and sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery are all averaging more than three kills per set. On defense, Jarmoc, junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers and freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie are each rejecting a full shot or more per set. KU is hitting .291, while holding its opponents to a combined .160 attack percentage over the stretch.
In June 2011, the KU volleyball team went on a 12-day European tour that included international competition and sightseeing of some of the many historical sites in Italy. The trip also proved to be a success as KU returned home with a 5-2 record from the tour. Some of the Jayhawks’ stops included: Geneva, Switzerland and Rome, Novara, Verona and Venice – all historic cities in Italy.
International volleyball isn’t as foreign to the Jayhawks as people may think. Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton played a two-week stint in China this summer for a U.S. Developmental League – traveling to Shanghai and Beijing. Redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc spent time in Poland last summer, working out with the Polish National Team as she has aspirations of playing professionally after graduation.
Senior setter Erin McNorton and freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie were named the Big 12’s Offensive Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively, on Sept. 23, bringing KU’s total to four honorees in the last three weeks. Senior libero Brianne Riley was honored by the Big 12 as the Defensive Player of the Week (9/16), while redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc claimed the accolade the week before (9/9).
An undervalued position by many, senior setter Erin McNorton shined at the Kansas Invitational, dishing out 130 assists (13.00/set average) to power KU to its third tournament title of the fall. McNorton was awarded Tournament MVP for her performance as well as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, making her the first setter to earn that award since Texas’ Hannah Allison (11/21/11).
In its three pre-conference tournaments played in 2013, Kansas came away with a share or the outright title all three times: the Arizona Invitational, the InnTowner Invitational and, most recently, the Kansas Invitational. When hosting their own invitational, the Jayhawks are 93-23 and have gone undefeated in their last four-straight, dating back to Sept. 3-4, 2011.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc and junior outside hitter Sara McClinton each took home All-Tournament Team honors at the Kansas Invitational (9/20-22). The recognition was the second of McClinton’s season and career. Since her sophomore season, Jarmoc has been honored on the All-Tournament team in 10 of KU’s last 11 tournaments.
Senior setter Erin McNorton is the sixth Jayhawk in program history to record 2,000 assists and stands at 2,200 entering the week. The most astounding part? The Dallas native had not started a match until last season – all but 129 of those assists have come within the last 46 matches.
Senior libero Brianne Riley is nearing seventh all-time on the Big 12 Conference’s career digs list (1,746), catching up to former Kansas State star Lauren Mathewson (1,755; 2007-10). More than just a conference highlight, Riley ranks 14th in career digs amongst every active player in the NCAA. The next closest Big 12 libero on the NCAA’s list is Iowa State’s Kristen Hahn (1512, 30th).
Down two sets to none against an undefeated, top-25 Wisconsin (9/13) team on its home floor, Kansas charged back to win the next three sets – the Jayhawks’ first 0-2 comeback victory since Sept. 20, 2008 vs. Iowa State. The night marked several firsts for the 2013 season:
–      First Jayhawk to crack the 20-kill plateau (Tiana Dockery, 21)
–      First Jayhawk to collect 25+ digs (Brianne Riley, 28)
–      First Jayhawk win over a top-25 opponent
Senior libero Brianne Riley and sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery also collected All-Tournament honors at the InnTowner Invitational. Riley was outstanding with 5.46 digs per set, including a season-high 31 in KU’s win over Bowling Green. Dockery was the key piece of Kansas’ comeback victory against No. 25 Wisconsin (9/13), pounding out a career-high 21 kills. The award was the fourth for Riley and the first for Dockery.
KU played two more five-set matches at the InnTowner Invitational, bringing its season total to four on the season. The Jayhawks played only five, five-set matches in 2012. The results have followed the same trend, however, as KU was 4-1 in five-setters a year ago and is 3-1 already this season.
In 2012, Kansas lost the first set only once during the entire pre-conference season. In 2013, Kansas has already faced an 0-1 deficit six times. Unfazed and on the road at their toughest foes, the Jayhawks have pulled off comeback victories at Arizona, at Arkansas and at No. 25 Wisconsin.
Of KU’s seven seniors, five are routine starters in the 2013 lineup. Caroline Jarmoc and Brianne Riley are the only four-year starters of the group – and what an impact they’ve had. In Riley’s 97 career starts, she has posted double-digit digs in 90 of them (39 consecutive). In Jarmoc’s 106 career starts, she has racked up double-digit kills 59 times.
On playing a professional team in the middle of the season:
“It was an opportunity for our kids to get exposed to a very high level of volleyball. Maybe the Kansas volleyball fan base can also come in and see the game at an international level. We jumped at the idea when we found out that they were going to be in this area. We think it’s going to be good for everybody.”
On seeing familiar players on Wednesday that KU faced during the 2011 Italy Tour:
“I think we’ll see some of the same folks that we saw on their roster a couple of years ago when we were over there. Our players got to spend a little bit of time with them while we were there, so I’m sure there will be some people in there that they recognize.”
On the difference between collegiate volleyball and international volleyball:
“We’re going to play NCAA rules, but if we were playing internationally, there would be only six subs and two entries. The libero doesn’t serve, so there’s a number of things that are different about international rules. I think for some that’s frustrating that we have variance in those rules, but when it comes down to it, you score the same and you have to pass and serve well to be successful.”
On what fans can expect to see out of an international professional team:
“The physicality, number one, will jump out at you. They’re big. There isn’t a lot of specialization at the international level so you’ll see a lot of six-rotation players. The speed of the game will be similar, but the overall hype it’s played at will be a little different. It will be like a high-level Big 12 match that takes it up a notch from a physicality standpoint.”
On the rarity of having an exhibition match in the middle of the season:
“I don’t know that we’ve ever had one. It was just a circumstance that they were going to be doing a tour before they go down to Mexico for a competition. We felt like why not expose our team to different styles of play? That and give our fan base another chance to see a high-level team and matchup.”
Kansas will open the Big 12 Conference season on Saturday, Sept. 28. The Jayhawks will host TCU at 1 p.m.
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