Sweep! Kansas Claims All Three Big 12 Weekly Awards
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time in program history – and just the fourth time for the conference – the Kansas volleyball team swept the Big 12 Player of the Week awards. Tayler Soucie (offensive), Cassie Wait (defensive) and Ainise Havili (rookie) were each awarded for their league-leading weeks Monday afternoon.
All three contributed heavily to an undefeated week that boosted Kansas (15-5, 3-3) from last to fourth place in the conference standings. The Jayhawks came back from an 0-1 deficit to beat West Virginia on the road on Wednesday, then returned home to sweep TCU Saturday afternoon. Head coach Ray Bechard has preached team success over individual accolades, but agreed that the sweep highlighted both individual and team achievement.
“The Big 12 is cognizant of the fact that we had a pretty good week as a team, first and foremost,” Bechard said. “Then if they start to look into why that was, these three are certainly in the middle of it. All of them are very deserving and it’s fun to see them getting recognized, but we’ll see it as team recognition as well.”
Since the inception of the Rookie of the Week honor in 2008, only three other times has one school swept all three awards (Nebraska, Oct. 27, 2008; Iowa State, Nov. 16, 2009; and Missouri, Sept. 7, 2010). Just five times has Kansas won multiple awards in the same week, and three of those came last year.
A Big 12 All-Freshman Team honoree last fall, Soucie earned her first weekly award of the season, the fifth of her career and her first in the offensive category. She led the Big 12 with a .578 attack percentage, which translates into a remarkable 27 kills and just one error. Her 3.86 kills per set and 1.29 blocks per set both checked in at fourth-best for the week, while her 0.57 ace average was second.
In Morgantown, Soucie got started with 11 kills and no errors for a .500 hitting efficiency. Defensively, she tallied a career-high six digs and led the team with six blocks. What’s more, she landed a pair of service aces – and repeated the serving feat at home against TCU. In fact, the TCU match played out to be the best of Soucie’s career. She connected on a personal-best 16 kills on 23 swings for a season-high .652 attack percentage to lead all players. Overall, Soucie ranks second in the Big 12 in attack percentage (.374) and fourth in blocking average (1.28).
The award marks the first Defensive Player of the Week nod for Wait, who continues to power the Kansas defense from the back row. Her six digs per set last week led all Big 12 players. For the season, Wait’s 361 digs rank second-best among her conference counterparts, while her 4.81 dig average checks in at third.
Both contests over the past week saw Wait break the 20-dig barrier, making nine overall this season. She was a big part of KU’s comeback at West Virginia with 22 digs. In just three sets against the Horned Frogs, Wait still reached the 20-dig plateau and added a season-high two aces to her performance.
Havili picked up her second-straight Rookie of the Week award. On the road against West Virginia, Havili was forced to make adjustments when the Mountaineers tallied eight blocks in the first set. She did exactly that, as KU went on to win the next three sets and was blocked only four more times for the remainder of the match. Although she snapped her double-double streak at WVU, Havili still tallied six digs to accompany her 47 assists – and added three kills on four swings. TCU marked one of her best efforts of the year as she distributed the ball evenly to her outsides and middles, resulting in a season-high .408 team attack percentage. She restarted her double-double tally against the Horned Frogs, as well, with 45 assists and 11 digs, the 10th of her career.
Havili led all Big 12 setters for the second-straight week, this time with a 13.14 assist average. She holds the same lead for the season overall, leading the league with 11.36 assists per set. Havili’s 852 assists for the year are fourth-most all-time by a KU freshman.
Kansas returns to the road for a meeting in Ames, Iowa. The Jayhawks and Cyclones will square off in Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday, Oct. 22. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
2014 Kansas Big 12 Players of the Week
Sept. 22 – Madison Rigdon (Offensive)
Oct. 13 – Ainise Havili (Rookie)
Oct. 20 –Tayler Soucie (Offensive)
Oct. 20 – Cassie Wait (Defensive)
Oct. 20 – Ainise Havili (Rookie)
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