Kansas Starts Second Half of Big 12 Slate at TCU
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas closed the first half of Big 12 Conference play winning four of its last five matches, putting the Jayhawks back at .500 to start the final portion of league play beginning Saturday at TCU. First serve is set for 1 p.m. inside the University Recreation Center.
vs. TCU (Kansas leads, 5-1): TCU won the first meeting between the two squads – a five-set contest in 1999 – but the series has been on KU’s side since the Frogs made the move to the Big 12. Only two weeks separate the first meeting of the season between these two teams as KU swept TCU in Lawrence on Oct. 18.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
The KU-TCU match will stream on GoFrogs.com for a subscription fee. Fans can listen to radio play-by-play on KUAthletics.com, found under the Fan Central tab. Adam Drovetta will have the call. Fans can monitor the action by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
KANSAS AT A GLANCE
- 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 1,005-283.
- KU righted its 0-3 start in Big 12 play by winning four of its last five league matches. At 4-4, Kansas enters the weekend fourth in the Big 12 standings.
- Kansas sits at No. 22 in the latest NCAA RPI projections (10/27). In the last three seasons, KU has never been outside the top-30. Thus far in 2014, KU is 0-4 vs. top-25 RPI teams, 1-6 vs. top-50 and 9-6 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).
- The Jayhawk offense is second in the Big 12 in kills per set at 13.75.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili leads the Big 12 in conference-only action with 11.12 assists per set. Overall, the rookie floor general is second in assist average by a mere .01 margin (11.14) and second in total assists by only one assist (925).
- Entering the weekend, sophomore libero Cassie Wait is six digs away from her 400th of 2014, the first 400-dig season of her career. Only Iowa State’s Caitlin Nolan has more (406). Her 4.75 digs per set rank third in the conference.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers ranks in the top-10 in the conference in kills (3.08) and points (3.58) per set. A jack of all trades, Albers is third on the team in digs (2.43) and fourth in blocks (0.87). She posted her sixth double-double of the season against Texas Tech (10 kills/10 digs).
- Three of KU’s middle blockers rank in the top-five in attack percentage in the Big 12. Freshman Kayla Cheadle is second (.369), freshman Kelsie Payne is third (.356) and sophomore Tayler Soucie is fifth (.338).
THAT WAS FAST
The Kansas vs. Texas Tech (10/25) match lasted a brief one hour and 27 minutes, KU’s fastest match in conference play this season and the seventh match of the year that played out in less than 90 minutes.
Against Texas Tech (10/25), the Kansas blocking game was on point and then some. Led by a season-high seven blocks from senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers, the Jayhawks racked 13.5 total blocks and allowed only 2.5 rejections against them. That’s the first time KU has tallied 10+ blocks more than the team across the net in 2014. The last occurrence came against Baylor (10/5/13) when the Jayhawks out-blocked the Bears in Waco, 16.0-3.0.
LAST TIME OUT
Only two weeks ago, Kansas and TCU played each other for the first time in 2014 – when Kansas came away with a 3-0 sweep on the Oct. 18 Jayhawks for a Cure match. KU started with a .581 hitting percentage in the first set, 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. Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie put on a spectacular offensive effort for the Jayhawks, which included a new career-high in kills (16), tied a career-high in aces (2) and led all players in attack percentage (.652).
The Jayhawks chalked up their eighth sweep of the year against Texas Tech (10/25), a mark that Big 12 foes’ Texas and Kansas State can beat with 11 and 10 sweeps, respectively, in 2014. A number that neither of them can beat, however, is KU has been swept only once this season. Kansas State has been swept twice this year and Texas, too, has been beaten 3-0 once. In fact, KU has been swept just twice in its last 66 matches (No. 5 Washington, 12/13/13; No. 3 Penn State, 9/13/14).
Freshman setter Ainise Havili is mowing through her first season as the Jayhawks’ floor general. With 925 assists, Havili moved into fourth place in KU history for assists by a freshman. With 28 assists against Texas Tech on Saturday, Havili surpassed former KU standout Lesli Steinert (923; 1992). She is currently averaging 42 assists per match, putting her on pace to take over the most assists by a KU rookie (Katie Martincich, 2006, 1,193).
Staying strong in the RPI, Kansas checks in at No. 22 this week. Although the Jayhawks have more losses now than they did at this point in the last two seasons, their strength of schedule has a lot to do with that. In the latest RPI projections, 15 of KU’s 22 opponents are in the top-100. All but three of those 22 opponents have winning records. In the final month of the regular season, seven of KU’s next eight matches will come against teams in the top-80, including at Kansas State (No. 16), at Texas (No. 4) and Oklahoma (21).
Seven different players have led the Jayhawks in kills this fall, which showcases the balanced offense that head coach Ray Bechard has strived to achieve with his young team this season. To prove the point even further, those same seven all have 100 or more kills to their credit this season. KU hasn’t seen seven players total 100+ kills in a season since 2007 when eight players hit the mark.
Kansas chalked up its 19th double-double of the season against Texas Tech (10/25). Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers tallied her sixth of the season with 10 kills and 10 digs, giving her a little cushion to her slight lead as team leader in the stat. She now only leads freshman setter Ainise Havili by two (13) for her entire four-year career. Havili owns the Jayhawks’ double-double game with 11 in her rookie season, the third-most by any Big 12 player in 2014.
SCOUTING TCU (13-10, 3-6 Big 12 Conference)
TCU is led by head coach Prentice Lewis, now in her 13th season with the Horned Frogs. Lewis took over a struggling squad in 2002 and went to work on turning the program around. Last season, she led the Horned Frogs to a winning record (16-15), the ninth time accomplishing this deed in her 12 years at the helm. TCU opened its season against then-No. 1 Penn State, then caught fire in the non-conference by picking up wins against Miami and Notre Dame before knocking off Iowa State in the second conference match of the year.
Very tough at home, TCU is 10-2 at the University Recreation Center and defeated West Virginia there in four sets on Wednesday. TCU ranks second in the Big 12 in hitting percentage (.259), coming in behind Texas. At the serving line, however, there’s nobody better as the Horned Frogs lead the league with 1.49 aces per set.
Leading the charge for the Horned Frogs offensively is sophomore outside hitter Ashley Smith. Smith paces the team with 2.86 kills per set. In the last week of the 2013 regular season, she earned co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week and TCU Muscle Milk Athlete of the Week accolades. Senior opposite Stephanie Holland follows suit offensively for TCU as her 222 kills on the season is only one less than Smith’s total. Junior setter Alexa Heist has taken over the distribution duties with a team-high 6.82 assists per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On having a midweek bye this week:
“It’s nice. It comes at a good time. It’s a break in the conference so we can identify things for the second half that will be pretty critical toward us. Plus, it gave us a few extra days to work on some things.”
On beginning the second half of conference play:
“It seems like a break for us, having this week off. It’s November, which means we’re getting closer to the end of the season. We’ve done two-thirds of our season and three-fourths of our practices. So now you have to stay fresh, stay sharp and play some of your best volleyball this time of the year.”
On the strength and parity of the Big 12 Conference:
“It’s a little tougher to win on the road this year. You look at some home records and they’re pretty solid. Now we have gone 2-2 at home and 2-2 on the road, but there are some teams who are struggling to win on the road because everyone can be so good. So getting a road win is premium. For us, the last couple of weeks to win at Baylor and West Virginia were big for us. However, we have a couple difficult road games coming up.”
On TCU in looking to avenge its 3-0 loss in Lawrence:
“They’re going to be a healthier team. They got back some key personnel and they’ve gotten some big wins at home. I’m sure they’ll be playing at a high level and we’ll have to be good, too, so we can get the result we want.”
On getting ready to begin the second half of conference play:
“We had a mixed bag of results first half and, obviously, a disappointing start. But winning four of the last five certainly got us back upright and got us back in the top half of the conference. Not by much, so we’ve slowly got to build our second half résumé to stay in the top half of the conference and catch some of those teams in front of us.”
Kansas will come home to welcome Baylor to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Wednesday, Nov. 5. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m., and the match will air on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
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