Kansas Ready to Right Big 12 Start at Baylor
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head coach Ray Bechard said it best after Sunday’s match against No. 2 Texas when he said his team wasn’t happy with its Big 12 Conference start but they are – and will be – ok. Kansas continues its quest for the first league win of the season on Friday in Waco, Texas when the Jayhawks face Baylor at 7 p.m. in front of a “blackout” crowd.
vs. Baylor (BU leads, 22-17): The Baylor-Kansas matchup is known for being closely-contested. For five-straight years, the teams split their season series – until KU broke the trend in 2013 with a series sweep. The Bears hold a 14-5 advantage in Waco, but last October, KU defeated the Bears on their turf for the first time since Oct. 13, 2010. Don’t expect a quick one as only two sweeps have occurred between the teams in the last 10 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-BU match will stream online on Baylor All-Access for a subscription fee. 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 1,001-282.
- The NCAA released the first RPI projections of 2014 with Kansas debuting at No. 26. KU hasn’t been out of the top-30 in three seasons.
- Sunday’s matchup with No. 2 Texas marked the second time that Kansas squared off against a top-three team this season (then-No. 3 Penn State). The teams are also the defending national champs the last two years (Penn State, 2013; Texas, 2012).
- Kansas is on the hunt for its first Big 12 win this year and has not started 0-3 in league play since 2011. Kansas started 2012 5-0 in conference play and went 4-0 to start in 2013.
- 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 (4.14). Three matches into conference-only play, her 58 kills were tied for most in the league.
- Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne is second in the league in attack percentage with her .375 mark (60K-6E-64TA). She has two of the top-five hitting efficiency performances this season – at Oklahoma (.647) and vs. Kansas State (.444).
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili‘s 704 assists rank 24th nationally, while her 11.00 assists per set checks in at 33rd in the NCAA.
The Kansas-Texas match (10/5) was KU’s first Fox Sports Network national broadcast at home in program history. KU was nationally televised from home last season against Baylor (ESPNU) and will be on ESPNU again later this season (at Iowa State, 10/22).
Known for giving opponents zero leeway in matches, Texas had swept seven of its 10 opponents before coming to Lawrence. Despite its 0-2 deficit, KU refused to be swept. In fact, KU has been swept just twice in the last 62 matches (No. 5 Washington; No. 3 Penn State).
The last time Kansas was in Waco, senior outside hitter Sara McClinton went off. The Omaha, Nebraska, native was phenomenal, breaking out for 23 kills and zero errors for a .676 attack percentage – both career highs. She also registered a block assist and a solo block to lead all players with 24.5 points. Alongside her, fellow senior Chelsea Albers also shined, posting a double-double with 13 kills and 14 digs along with seven blocks. The third of the veteran outside hitting trio, junior Tiana Dockery, posted 11 kills in Waco.
Facing Kansas State (10/2) and No. 2 Texas (10/5) in front of sold-out crowds, freshman setter Ainise Havili posted double-doubles in both matches – a goal she’s reached in four of the last five outings. For her young career, Havili already has eight double-doubles in only 17 career contests, good for third-most in the Big 12 this season.
WAIT FOR IT
In her first season as the Jayhawks’ starting libero, sophomore Cassie Wait increases her own expectations with every match. She dug up 44 balls last week against Kansas State (10/2) and Texas (10/5), good for a 4.89 average. Her 18 digs and five assists against Kansas State helped the Jayhawks lead the Wildcats in both categories. Squaring off against No. 2 Texas, Wait came just one shy of tying her career-high with 26 digs in only four sets. Last week, Wait passed the 500-career dig mark.
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers is rolling through her senior season, with 11 double-digit scoring efforts already this season. Her Big 12 play has been even more noticeable. Her 58 kills to kick off league play are tied for the most among her Big 12 counterparts, while she ranks in the top-10 in attack percentage (.322, 7th) and kills per set (4.14, 4th).
Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne has started the last five matches and has taken off. Against Oklahoma (9/27) and Kansas State (10/2), Payne erupted for 12 kills each match and committed only one error in the two contests. In all five of her starts, she has led the Jayhawks in blocks. In league-only action, Payne ranks third in attack percentage (.375) and sixth in blocks (1.36 per set).
WHAT’S UP, DOCK?
Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery has been a major contributor in Big 12 action as she’s third on the team with 2.00 kills per set and second with 2.18 digs per set. In the last two matches, she racked up 22 kills and registered a double-double against Kansas State (10/2).
SCOUTING BAYLOR (10-8, 1-3 Big 12 Conference)
Led by 11-year head coach Jim Barnes, Baylor was voted to finish sixth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Bears finished the non-conference slate at 9-5, including wins against Rice and Illinois State before kicking off conference play with a major victory at Kansas State. Entering the weekend, the Bears lead the Big 12 in kills per set (13.77) but are last in attack percentage (.210).
A familiar face in the Big 12 resurged as the leader of the Bears, as former Iowa State standout Andie Malloy transferred to Baylor last year. After sitting out a year per in-conference transfer rules, Malloy paces the team with 3.94 kills per set, which ranks second in the Big 12. Defensively, she ranks second only to senior libero Hope Ogden (3.36) with 2.57 digs per set. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Katie Staiger also made her debut at Baylor this season and checks in behind Malloy with 3.16 kills per set.
At the net, sophomore middle blocker Tola Itiola leads the team with a .360 attack percentage and 1.04 blocks per set. Junior setter Amy Rosenbaum runs the offense with 10.59 assists per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
“They take a lot of swings, and I know they went into K-State and won in five. There was a point in their season that they had won seven out of eight, so they’ve got good players. Andie Malloy is one of the top kids in kills per set in the Big 12 and Katie Staiger is back after an injury kept her out last year. So those two kids are back who weren’t there last year and are the top-two kill producers for them this year. It’s just like any other opportunity for us. We’ve got to be very focused, take care of our side of the net and make plays in end-game situations. I’m sure it will be a fun atmosphere and we’re looking forward to it.”
On Baylor’s comeback at Kansas State to win in five sets:
“Jim’s (Barnes) teams aren’t going to give up. He’s done a great job there and they’ve developed a culture of working hard. To go on the road without Malloy, who was out with an injury, and get beat in the first set 13-25 and comeback win – there’s a culture of toughness there. They’ve got plenty of players to get them some bit time wins in the Big 12.”
On his team’s confidence:
“We’ve got to start winning matches. We played well on-and-off in the three opening matches of Big 12, playing against good teams – but we’re going to continue playing against good teams. We’ve got to figure out how to finish matches if we’re up 2-0 or 2-1 or when we’re down 0-2 like we were to Texas. We’ve had good moments in those, but we’re going to be diligent about getting those moments closer together and longer.”
On taking off the pressure from his players:
“You’ve got to free your mind a little bit, but at the same time the expectations for what we want to get done are everywhere. Our team knows that, they know what our goals are. We’ve got to confront that and continue to play at a high level.”
On Chelsea Albers’ production in Big 12 play and finding an offensive balance:
“A few years ago, we were a little top-heavy in some areas and I think over the last couple of years, we’ve had some good balance. There have been times this year when we’ve had good balance and had four or five people lead us in kills. Certainly, we want Chelsea and Sara (McClinton) to lead the way in that regard, but we’ll continue to strive for some balance. I think (Tayler) Soucie continues to get better and we’ll get even more production from that middle blocker group.”
Kansas continues its Big 12 slate on the road at West Virginia on Oct. 15. First serve is set for 5:30 p.m. CT.
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