Sunflower Showdown: Kansas Ready for Rivalry Match vs. Kansas State
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Watching a two-set lead turn into a five-set loss at Oklahoma has the Jayhawks ready for redemption in their second test of the Big 12 Conference season. Kansas will put a four-match win streak against its in-state rival on the line when KU welcomes Kansas State to a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
AROUND THE GYM
- SOLD OUT – Kansas vs. Kansas State is the first sold-out match of the season.
- Jay Days – $2 hot dog and popcorn; $1 mini cone
vs. Kansas State (KSU leads, 61-40): In 2013, Kansas and Kansas State eclipsed the 100th all-time meeting between the two schools on the volleyball court. They also saw another long-term milestone as KU defeated KSU for the fourth-straight time, a feat the Jayhawks had not pulled off since 1993. KSU holds a 28-18 series advantage in Lawrence.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
Fans can listen to radio play-by-play on KUAthletics.com, found under the Fan Central tab. Adam Drovetta will have the call. The KU-KSU match will air on the Time Warner Cable SportsChannel with Leif Lisec and former Kansas volleyball standout Jill (Dorsey) Hall providing the analysis. The match will also be available on ESPN3.com. Fans can monitor the action by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
- Back-to-back defending Big 12 Coach of the Year, Ray Bechard, is in his 30th overall season as a head coach in 2014 and his 17th with the Jayhawks. He enters the week with a career mark of 1,001-280.
- Kansas fell out of the AVCA Top-25, and is receiving votes in the most recent poll (9/28).
- Voted to finish second in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, Kansas was upended by the Oklahoma Sooners in the conference opener (9/27). OU finished one game behind the Jayhawks last season in the Big 12 standings and was picked fourth in 2014.
- This is the first time since the 2011 season that KU has started Big 12 play with a loss, falling at No. 8 Texas (9/24/11) in three sets.
- KU opened the conference schedule on the road for the sixth time in the last seven years. It’s the second-straight year that the second league match came against Kansas State.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers led the charge at Oklahoma, connecting on a career-best 24 kills and a season-high .595 attack percentage.
- In their first career Big 12 match, freshmen Kelsie Payne, Ainise Havili and Madison Rigdon played major roles in leading the team. Payne and Rigdon connected 12 kills apiece with Payne leading the team in blocks (6) and Rigdon leading in aces (2). Havili tallied 53 assists.
- Havili’s 611 assists rank 31st nationally, despite a midweek bye, while her 11.11 assists per set checks in at 21st in the NCAA.
TOP TO BOTTOM
Ranked third in the final RPI in 2013, the Big 12 Conference showcases a well-stacked field of teams. The first week of 2014 conference competition certainly reflected that. Baylor, picked sixth in the preseason poll, defeated Kansas State (fifth) in five. Oklahoma (fourth) topped Kansas (second) in five, while TCU (T-seventh) defeated Iowa State (third) in four sets. The only higher-picked team that won last weekend was West Virginia (T-seventh) over Texas Tech (ninth), however that’s the same WVU squad that nearly knocked off conference-favorite Texas in the conference opener.
DIFFERENT LOOK, SAME RIVALRY
The last time that Kansas and Kansas State faced off, both teams were led by All-American senior middle blockers in KU’s Caroline Jarmoc and KSU’s Kaitlynn Pelger. They were flanked by offensively-powerful outside hitters Catherine Carmichael (KU) and Courtney Traxson (KSU). The Jarmoc/Carmichael duo led KU with a combined 26 kills, while Pelger and Traxson totaled 35. None of KSU’s offensive leaders from 2014 took the court in the last Sunflower Showdown. Setter Katie Brand is the only Wildcat starter to return to the rivalry match. On KU’s side, however, Chelsea Albers, Sara McClinton and Tayler Soucie chalked up 32 kills between the three of them on that Nov. 16, 2013 meeting.
Thanks to her career-high 24 kills at Oklahoma (9/27), senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers reached 750 kills for her career and is a mere six digs away from the 700-dig plateau. In KU volleyball history, only 15 players have surpassed the 750 kill/700 dig mark.
After the opening week of Big 12 action, the Jayhawks have the Big 12 hitting efficiency on lock down. Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne (.647) ranks first, senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers (.595) ranks second and sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie (.417) ranks third in the league. It’s not a fluke – through all matches this year, KU also has three players among the Big 12’s top-five. Freshman middle blocker Kayla Cheadle (.369) ranks third, Soucie (.365) ranks fourth and Payne (.359) is fifth.
WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT
Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne‘s .647 (12K-1E-17TA) attack percentage against Oklahoma (9/27) is the second-best performance by any player in the Big 12 this season. The best? Fellow Jayhawk rookie Kayla Cheadle‘s .667 (14K-2E-18TA) hitting efficiency vs. Cleveland State (9/19).
SCOUTING RV KANSAS STATE (13-2, 0-1 Big 12 Conference)
The Wildcats are led by 14-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 and currently sits tied with the Jayhawks for seventh after both squads lost their conference opener in five sets. KSU concluded the non-conference season with a 13-1 record, capped by an 11-match winning streak. Baylor snapped the Wildcats’ winning spree on KSU’s home floor last Saturday.
The graduation of two-time All-American Kaitlynn Pelger has given opportunities for new faces to win the role of offensive leader. Freshman outside hitter Kylee Zumach became the first KSU player to win the Big 12’s Rookie of the Week award in three-straight weeks and leads the team with 3.60 kills per set, which ranks third in the Big 12. Just as they did against Oklahoma, the Jayhawks will face another Mississippi State transfer in sophomore outside hitter Brooke Sassin. She is right behind Zumach with a 3.16 kill average (7th).
Redshirt sophomore setter Katie Brand returns to distribute the offense and is neck-and-neck in the conference setter race with KU’s Ainise Havili. Brand averages 11.18 assists per set, while Havili sits at 11.11. At the net, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Katie Reininger is a productive addition to the lineup with a team-best 1.39 blocks per set, while redshirt senior middle Natali Jones averages 1.33 stuffs. As a team, KSU and Texas are the only teams blocking more than three shots per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On having a short memory:
“That’s the way you do business in this league because there will be a lot of good moments and a lot of moments to bounce back from. Obviously, we need to bounce back from a disappointing result in Norman. A midweek match gives us the opportunity to fully focus on another really good team.”
On the league being good top to bottom base on first-week upsets:
“Iowa State gets beat at TCU, West Virginia goes on the road and wins at Texas Tech, so we need to forget the uniform that we’re playing against. Every team that lines up against us will present different problems, but they all will be extremely competitive.”
On Kansas State:
“They remind me, offensively, of the team we just played (Oklahoma). They certainly make things difficult for opposing team with their defense. They have a lot of new faces, but a lot of them still have a lot of experience as transfers. (Kylee) Zumach got to spend last spring with them and I think that was invaluable. A couple of the kids who have transferred have now spent time in the program, understand the system and understand what they are trying to get done.”
On KSU’s blocking strength:
“They are a good blocking team, a physical team and they’re very organized in that regard. You need to be an in-system team to have success and that goes for any team that you’re playing. At this juncture, the premium is passing and serving, and that broke down in our last match. We’ll go right back at those two skills. If we’re executing those skills at a high level, we certainly can compete with anybody.”
On the match at Oklahoma being a valuable learning opportunity about Big 12 play:
“It’s too bad we can’t remember how well we played the first two sets, but as a coaching staff and as a team what’s freshest is that we allowed Oklahoma to get in their rhythm and we had a hard time getting them out of it. We responded pretty well in the fourth set, but when you get to a fifth set on the road and the crowd gets behind them, things will get difficult. Then it’s ‘Well how did we get in this situation in the first place?’ We would’ve much rather have won and learned some lessons, rather than lost. It does sting and the competitor in all of us will search out answers as to how we can respond better the next time.”
On Chelsea Albers’ effort at Oklahoma:
“She was great offensively. When you hit over .500 and take 35 swings, then you had a pretty good night. Overall, she certainly carried us the best that she could. Obviously, we need to have a little more balance and need to get our middles a little more involved as well as Sara, Madison and Dock. If you have a hot hitter like that, you’re going to go to it. That’s not where we broke down. It broke down with not a great response in the third set when we had a chance to put them away. We needed to make a few more wining plays at the end of the fourth set and it would’ve been a different outcome. But if you dwell too long on that in this league, it’s going to affect your next time out. So, we’ll hit the court ready for a new week and a new challenge.”
Kansas stays at home to welcome the back-to-back-to-back Big 12 Champion No. 2 Texas Longhorns to Lawrence. KU and UT will face off on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. The sold-out match will air on Fox Sports Network.
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