Kansas, Iowa State to Square Off on ESPNU
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Riding a three-match win streak that pushed the Jayhawks into the top half of the Big 12 standings, focus now shifts to a nationally-televised meeting in Ames, Iowa scheduled for Wednesday. Kansas at Iowa State is set for 6 p.m., on ESPNU inside Hilton Coliseum.
vs. Iowa State (ISU leads, 46-37-1): Wednesday’s meeting will mark the first time in five years that Kansas will face an unranked Iowa State squad on its home floor. In their last trip to Ames, with second-place footing in the Big 12 Conference on the line, the 22nd-ranked Jayhawks did what they hadn’t done since 2004 – went into Ames and defeated Iowa State. The Cyclones still have the upper hand as of late in the all-time series that dates back to 1975, winning seven of the last 10 meetings. At Hilton Coliseum, ISU holds a convincing lead in the series, 26-8.
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-ISU match will air on ESPNU with Sam Gore and Dain Blanton 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 match with a career mark of 1,004-282.
- This is the second match of the season to be on national television. The first was at home against No. 2 Texas on Fox Sports (10/5). No stranger to the camera, this is KU’s 10th match on TV this year.
- After an 0-3 start and last in the Big 12 standings, Kansas heads to Ames sitting alone in fourth place.
- Kansas jumped from No. 20 in the RPI to No. 18 in the latest NCAA RPI projections (10/20). In the last three seasons, KU has been outside of the top-20 for only one week. Thus far in 2014, KU is 0-3 vs. top-25 RPI teams, 1-5 vs. top-50 and 8-5 vs. top-100.
- The RPI reflects that Kansas plays the last two national champions a combined three times this season in Penn State (2013) and Texas (2012).
- Kansas locked up its seventh sweep of the year against TCU (10/18), but its first one in nearly a month. KU downed North Texas (9/19) in three sets, but played seven more before collecting its first sweep in Big 12 play.
- For the second-straight week, freshman setter Ainise Havili leads the Big 12 in assists (852) and in assists per set (11.36), which also ranks 17th nationally.
- Kansas leads the league in kills per set in conference play (14.16), while Iowa State paces the conference in kill average overall (14.03).
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers ranks in the top-10 in the conference in kills (3.17) and points (3.63) per set. A jack of all trades, Albers is third on the team in digs (2.28) and fourth in blocks (0.80).
- KU’s middle blockers are finding their way to the top of the conference in attack percentage as three of them are among the top-five in the Big 12. Sophomore Tayler Soucie is second (.374), freshman Kayla Cheadle is third (.369) and freshman Kelsie Payne is fifth (.351).
For the first time in program history – and just the third time for the conference – Kansas 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 on Oct. 20. 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.
PLAYERS OF WEEK
The weekly award sweep gives KU five total recognitions this season. A year ago, the Jayhawks tallied 11 Big 12 weekly awards, which tied for the fifth-most by one team in a single-season in league history. Seven different Jayhawks were weekly award recipients. The seven awards by a different player is a league record. Texas had six different players collect honors in 2008.
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)
MEET IN THE MIDDLE
Head coach Ray Bechard said early in the season that the development of the Kansas offense would have everything to do with the progress of the young core of middle blockers, which consists of two sophomores and two freshmen. Led by All-Big 12 Freshman Team returnee, sophomore Tayler Soucie, the middles are certainly starting to click. Last week against West Virginia (10/15) and TCU (10/18), Soucie and freshman Kelsie Payne accounted for an astounding 46 kills, two errors and 17 blocks.
TOE THE LINE
Freshman setter Ainise Havili is well known for her ball distribution, decision making and digging prowess as KU’s floor general. She is also noted for leading the Jayhawks with eight aces in conference play alone, 22 overall. However, her ability lead her team on long scoring runs is becoming more and more apparent. Tied at 14-14 in the first set against TCU (10/18), KU claimed control with an 8-0 run – with Havili at the serving line. After KU dropped set one at West Virginia (10/15), the Jayhawks used a 10-0 run in set two to reset the tone. Who served those 10 points? Havili.
Against TCU (10/18), the Kansas offense started hot and stayed hot thanks to a .581 hitting percentage to open the match, its highest mark in a single set all year. By the end of the afternoon, KU’s attackers swung for 58 kills and only nine errors for a season-high .408 hitting percentage. That’s the second time this season that KU has hit over .400 (.405 vs. Utah Valley, 8/29) and it’s the second-best mark in a conference match by any Big 12 team.
HOLD YOUR GROUND
While the Kansas offense recorded its 1,000th kill of the season against TCU (10/18) and is second in the Big 12 with 1,050, the defense has been the unsung hero. For the first 10 matches of the season, KU held every opponent to less than a .200 hitting percentage until breaking that streak against defending national champion Penn State (9/13). Since then, the Jayhawk defense has done it five more times.
THIS SHOULD BE FUN
Kansas-Iowa State matches have been all-out battles as of late. The last two years saw both squads ranked in the top-25 in their home-and-away meetings and all four contests went to four or five sets. This season, they come into Wednesday match as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league in both assists and kills per set.
LIBERO FOR LIBERO
Kansas and Iowa State each graduated program icons in the back row at the conclusion of the 2013 season. For the first time in four years, KU and ISU will face off without Brianne Riley and Kristen Hahn at defensive captain. Riley holds the all-time career digs record at Kansas (2,053), the fourth-most in Big 12 history. Hahn was a three-time Big 12 Libero of the Year and ranked eighth all-time on the Big 12 career digs list (1,898). Not to worry, however, each squad has a new dynamite libero. Kansas sophomore Cassie Wait was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week (10/20) and ranks third in the Big 12 with 4.81 digs per set. ISU junior Caitlin Nolan leads the conference with a 5.38 dig average. Iowa State will not disappoint out of that position as the Big 12 Libero of the Year has come out of Ames, Iowa for the last six-straight years.
With her family in the stands at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center holding signs to count down the number of kills she still needed, senior outside hitter Sara McClinton broke into KU’s top-10 career kills list. Her 12 kills against TCU (10/18) gives her 1,140 for her career, surpassing Jana Correa (1,131; 2003-06) for 10th-most as a Jayhawk. She’s already only seven away from moving into ninth all-time (Judy Desch; 1,146; 1984-87). 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.
Freshman setter Ainise Havili is mowing through her first season as the Jayhawks’ floor general. With 852 assists, Havili sits at fourth in KU history for assists by a freshman. She is currently averaging 42.6 assists per match, putting her on pace to take over the most assists by a KU rookie (Katie Martincich, 2006, 1,193).
THE RACE IS ON
After being voted to finish second in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll, the highest selection in KU’s history, the Jayhawks were hit with a brutal 0-3 start to conference play. Sitting in last place and the only team in the league without a win, KU won back-to-back road matches at Baylor (10/10) and West Virginia (10/15) and extended the win streak to three at home against TCU (10/18) to bolt up the standings. Entering the ISU match, the Jayhawks are alone in fourth place.
SCOUTING IOWA STATE (10-7, 2-4 Big 12 Conference)
Once an All-American setter for Nebraska, Christy Johnson-Lynch is in her 10th season at the helm of the Iowa State volleyball program. The Big 12 and Volleyball Magazine Coach of the Year in 2009 has led the Cyclones to becoming one of just 15 programs nationally to appear in each of the previous eight NCAA Volleyball Championships. Iowa State opened the season against then-No. 3 Stanford and then-No. 13 Florida State, attempting to challenge the team right away. Since then, the Cyclones have picked up notable wins against Tulsa and at Northern Iowa. In Big 12 play, ISU has big wins against West Virginia and Oklahoma, but lost in five sets at Texas Tech on Saturday.
An All-Big 12 Freshman Team member last year, sophomore outside hitter Ciara Capezio returns to set the tone offensively with 3.28 kills per set. That number ranks fourth in the conference and she adds 2.09 digs per set to that count. Senior outside hitter Victoria Hurtt, Kansas City native and two-time All-Big 12 honoree, is right behind her with just seven fewer kills on the year and a 2.62 average. Sophomore Suzanne Horner transferred in from Mississippi State to set for the Cyclones and trails only KU’s Ainise Havili in the Big 12 with 11.20 assists per set.
Junior right side Mackenzie Bigbee, the 2012 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, led the Cyclones with 16 kills at Texas Tech on Saturday and registers 2.51 kills per set. At the net, freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Alexis Conway is the only player on the team hitting above .300 (.337) and blocking more than one ball per set (1.14). Behind her, junior Caitlin Nolan leads the Big 12 with 5.38 digs per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On playing in Hilton Coliseum:
“They’re good at home. They’ve got some great support, they’ve played at a high level for the past several years and I’m sure that’s not going to be different when we roll in there on Wednesday.”
On Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch also trying to replace a lot of key players:
“I think she had a number of players returning that played different roles and had different responsibilities last year. They’ve stepped into the forefront right now. (Mackenzie) Bigbee is a great player; Victoria Hurtt is a great player. They have a libero every year that plays at a high level and Caitlin Nolan does that for them now. I know the setter is new, and I’m sure she’s doing a great job. Christy does a really great job for players in that position. They’ve played at a high level, but like our team, consistency is something they’re still trying to find. When you have a lot of newcomers, that’s certainly the thing you’ve got to find and the hardest to capture. They beat Oklahoma and have some other quality wins. I’m sure we’ll see the best they have.”
On replacing two of the best liberos in Big 12 history in KU’s Brianne Riley and ISU’s Kristen Hahn:
“Cassie (Wait) has been great for us. I think Caitlin Nolan might be leading the Big 12 in digs per set. We’ll see a lot of good liberos this week and Caitlin Nolan is a kid who we watched play and recruited. She takes care of her area, she’s a great server, great serve receiver, so a lot of the same things we get from Cassie. That should be a very competitive matchup, but obviously there’s a ton of other things we’ve got to do outside of that matchup to be successful.”
On his team hitting its stride:
“Offensively we had a pretty good week. I’m a little disappointed defensively; we’ve got to create more stops. Teams are first-ball siding out on us too often. We’ve got to manage that a little better. We did involve our middles a little bit better this past weekend. We got the ball spread around, Ainise (Havili) made some great choices. Now if we can tighten up a little defensively, it’ll give us a good chance to have a good week.”
On playing well on the road:
“We’ve done okay on the road. We won in Denver, we won in Villanova and won at Baylor and West Virginia. I’d rather play at Horejsi, but so far they’ve competed hard when they’ve needed to, even if we haven’t always gotten the result we wanted. It’s a process, and this is an opportunity to finish the first round of the Big 12 Conference in good shape. So that’s certainly going to be our main goal.”
Kansas will welcome former players back to Lawrence for its alumni weekend when the Jayhawks will take on Texas Tech, Saturday at 1 p.m. inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The match will air on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
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