Kansas vs. No. 2 Texas Takes National Stage
LAWRENCE, Kan. – On the hunt for the first win of the Big 12 Conference season, Kansas welcomes the second-ranked Texas Longhorns to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center for a Sunday meeting on Fox Sports. First serve is scheduled for 1 p.m.
AROUND THE GYM
- SOLD OUT – Kansas vs. Texas is KU’s second-straight sold-out match
- Active Ankle Match of the Week – Table display of products in the concourse
vs. Texas (UT leads, 35-4): Texas holds a 35-4 all-time record against Kansas in a series that dates back to 1981. At home, the Jayhawks are 3-15 against the perennial power, while the Longhorns hold the lopsided advantage in Austin, 17-1, and are 3-0 against Kansas on a neutral court. UT has been in the nation’s top-10 in the previous 16-consecutive meetings. The last time Kansas upended the Longhorns marked the Jayhawks’ only win in Austin, knocking off the Longhorns in five sets on Nov. 8, 2003. Texas has gone on to win the next 20-consecutive meetings.
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-UT match will air on Fox Sports with Bill Ferguson and Anne Marie Anderson providing the analysis. The match marks the first KU home volleyball contest to air nationally on Fox Sports, which includes Fox Sports Midwest for those in the KU area and Fox Sports Southwest for UT viewers. 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 match with a career mark of 1,001-281.
- Kansas fell out of the AVCA Top-25, but is receiving votes in the most recent poll (9/28).
- KU snapped its four-match win streak against rival Kansas State on Wednesday and opens Big 12 play at 0-2 for the first time since 2011.
- The matchup with No. 2 Texas marks the second time that Kansas will square off against a top-three team this season (No. 3 Penn State), as well as the last two national champions.
- In her first week of Big 12 play, freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne is leading the league in attack percentage with her .523 mark (24K-1E-44TA). She has two of the top-five hitting efficiency performances this season – at Oklahoma (.647) and vs. Kansas State (.444).
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers is one of just five players in the Big 12 with more than four kills per set in conference play (4.10). She belted out a career-high 24 at Oklahoma (9/27) and a team-high 17 vs. Kansas State (10/2).
- Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne has caught fire as of late, starting the last four matches. Two matches into the Big 12 season, she leads the league with a .523 (24K-1E-44TA) attack percentage.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili‘s 663 assists rank 15th nationally, while her 11.05 assists per set checks in at 24th in the NCAA.
SENIORS ON A MISSION
Kansas senior duo Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton are on the hunt for their first win against the national powerhouse out of Austin. In their careers, the pair has played in all six matches against the Longhorns and have put together increasingly better performances to amp up to their senior year. Twice, they have played Texas to five sets and twice more to four sets. McClinton led the Jayhawks at home last year against the ‘Horns with 16 kills, while Albers added 10. In all, the two have a combined 98 kills against the reigning champs.
In their 10 matches this season, the Longhorns have swept their opponent in seven of them. The Jayhawks, however, don’t take kindly to sweeps. In the NCAA Sweet 16 match last season, No. 5 Washington ended KU’s 45-match streak of not being swept. The Huskies went on to the 2013 Final Four. The defending national champion, Penn State, handed Kansas its only sweep this season. Meaning, in the past 61 matches – KU has been swept just twice.
CONFERENCE START – VETERAN SIDE
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers is rolling through her senior season, with 10 double-digit scoring efforts already this season. Her Big 12 play has been even more noticeable. Her 41 kills to kick off league play lead all but one Big 12 player (Jordan Anderson, West Virginia, 43), while she ranks in the top-five in attack percentage (.380, 4th) and kills per set (4.10, 5th).
CONFERENCE START – ROOKIE SIDE
Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne has a little different story, as her non-conference season was used to build her confidence and skillset. Once Big 12 play hit, however, Payne has taken off. Against Oklahoma and Kansas State, Payne erupted for 12 kills each match and committed only one error in the two contests – making her the only player hitting over .500 in league play. Her .523 attack percentage easily leads the conference.
BLOCKS ON BLOCKS
Kansas fought against the net presence of Kansas State in its last time out (10/2), the second-best blocking team in the league. While not much consolation for losing the match, KU did win the war at the net – out-blocking the Wildcats, 12.0-10.5. Now, the test gets even greater as the Longhorns come in as the best blockers in the Big 12 (3.11/set). Half of the top-10 blockers in the conference come from Texas or Kansas State.
Both seniors, Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton, were named to the list of 30 candidates to be considered for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate volleyball, making Kansas the only school with two candidates. One of the most dynamic duos in Kansas volleyball history, Albers and McClinton started impacting the program from day one. Both from Nebraska, Albers hails from Papillion and McClinton from Omaha, and the pair entered their senior season after All-Big 12 First Team performances a year ago. They went on to collect All-America Honorable Mention honors to conclude the 2013 season before embarking on their final year as Jayhawks.
Kansas and Kansas State squared off for the 102nd time on Wednesday, which resulted in the Wildcats snapping a four-match losing streak to the Jayhawks. The match was the epitome of a rivalry as the two fought back-and-forth all night, extending points with diving digs and continued blocks at the net. By night’s end, KU collected more kills (65-60), more digs (79-73), more assists (61-58), more blocks (12.0-10.5) and more points (80.0-72.5) – but the Wildcats still stole the victory.
Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton is the 14th Jayhawk all-time to reach the 1,000-kill mark at Kansas. She is also one of two active Big 12 players with 1,000 kills to their name. The other is two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, Texas senior Haley Eckerman. McClinton currently sits at 1,096 career kills, passing former KU player Moira Donovan (1,081) for 12th on KU’s career all-time kills list. She needs just 27 more for 11th all-time (1,122, Cyndee Kanabel) and 35 to break into KU’s top-10 list (1,131, Jana Correa).
SCOUTING No. 2 TEXAS (10-0, 2-0 Big 12 Conference)
Led by 14-year head coach Jerritt Elliott, the Longhorns roll into Lawrence with 18-straight conference wins to their credit. Texas was nearly a unanimous pick to win the Big 12, receiving eight of the possible nine first-place votes – Kansas receiving the ninth and final vote. Texas finished the non-conference season with a perfect 8-0 record, with marquee wins on the road at No. 5 Nebraska and No. 11 Florida. After falling behind 2-0 at West Virginia, Texas stormed back to win its conference opener, 3-2. In its last time out, UT made quick work out of Iowa State, 3-0.
Senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman leads the charge for the undefeated Longhorns, to be expected for the defending back-to-back Big 12 Player of the Year. Eckerman currently leads the team in kills (92) and aces (14) on the season. The two-time AVCA First-Team All-American was selected to the All-Tournament Team for the 26 West Longhorn Classic in 2014. She starts a long list of All-American players on the roster, including junior middle blocker Molly McCage (.345 attack percentage, 1.26 blocks per set) and sophomore middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu (Big 12-best .384 attack percentage, 1.28 blocks per set). Those two were also the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Sophomore setter Chloe Collins is averaging 5.66 assists per set, getting assistance from sophomore Nicole Dalton’s 4.91 average. Freshman libero Cat McCoy has stormed into her role with 4.09 digs per set, which ranks right behind KU’s Cassie Wait (4.55).
As a team, the Longhorns lead the Big 12’s attack percentage by 20 points (.286) and are the only team blocking more than three balls per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On there being no better time to come out and make a huge statement on national TV:
“Any time’s a good time. This match has a lot of significance. They’re an undefeated opponent, No. 1 in the Big 12, the team everyone’s been chasing the past few years.”
On Texas being the top of a very good Big 12 this year:
“They’ve set the standard for sure, but we got varied results around the league again last night (Wednesday). There’s been one consistent, and that’s Texas, the past few years. Obviously, we’ve ascended in the Big 12 the last couple of years. There have been other teams that have been in-and-out. They’ve been the consistent powerhouse, they really excel. I would think this is an opportunity for our kids not to think they’re the favorite in a match.”
On sometimes ‘no pressure’ being the best kind of pressure:
“We just ned to play hard, compete hard and look in the mirror after the match is over and say ‘Hey, we were the best competitors we could be, we competed at the highest level, we support everyone around us.’ That’s what you’ll need, an effort like that, to be competitive against a group like Texas.”
On Haley Eckerman:
“She’s the Big 12 Player of the Year the last two years, National Player of the Year candidate, in a year without (Micha) Hancock (Penn State) probably. She can affect the match so many ways; serving, attacking, back-row attacking. So she’s been a great player not only for our league, but at the national level.”
On playing big matches at home:
“We’re at home and playing in front of fans that’ll be pulling for us. We need to give them the same type of energy back, the same type of effort back, that they’re giving us. It is one match, but each match has a high level of significance. This match will do more for our team nationally from a competitive confidence standpoint and put us right back into the middle of the Big 12 race.”
On his pair of Austin-native freshmen (Madison Rigdon and Kelsie Payne):
“Yeah, Madison and Kelsie Payne have had very good starts, but I’m sure (Ainise) Havili, Claire (Carpenter) and (Tiana) Dockery will have some significance in this match (all being from Texas). It’s a big match for our entire program in how we approach it and how we compete.”
Kansas continues its abnormal conference schedule with a Friday, Oct. 10 match at Baylor. First serve is 7 p.m. from Waco, Texas.
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