Kansas Comes Home to Host Baylor
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Seven regular-season matches await the Kansas volleyball team and the Jayhawks consider each upcoming one to be their biggest yet. Next on the docket is the Baylor Bears, who travel to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center for a midweek contest Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
vs. Baylor (BU leads, 22-18): 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 14-6 advantage in Waco, but earlier this season, KU collected its second-straight road win against Baylor for the first time since the 2003-2004 seasons. Don’t expect a quick one as only one sweep has happened between these two in their last 10 meetings.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
The KU-BU match will air on the Time Warner Cable SportsChannel with Leif Lisec and former Kansas volleyball standout Jill (Dorsey) Hall providing the analysis. Fans can listen to radio play-by-play on KUAthletics.com, found under the Fan Central tab. Adam Drovetta will have the call. The match will also be available on ESPN3.com. 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 1,005-284.
- KU continues its tumultuous path through Big 12 play on Wednesday. Picked to finished second in the conference, their highest selection in program history, the Jayhawks have yet to be above .500 in league play this season.
- Kansas sits at No. 27 in the latest NCAA RPI projections (11/3). 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 9-7 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 ranks second in the Big 12 in kills per set at 13.77 and will face Baylor on Wednesday – who ranks first (13.82). KU has totaled 1,212 kills this season. Only Baylor has more (1,313).
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili leads the Big 12 in conference-only action with 11.16 assists per set. Overall the rookie floor general is second in assist average (11.16) and second in total assists by only one assist (982).
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait broke into KU’s top-10 list for digs in a season on Saturday at TCU. Her 417 digs in 2014 rank ninth all-time by a Jayhawk.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers ranks in the top-10 in the conference in kills (3.07) and points (3.56) per set. A jack of all trades, Albers is third on the team in digs (2.44) and fourth in blocks (0.87). Albers is now seven digs away from becoming the 11th Jayhawk all-time to post 800 career kills and 800 career 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 (.341).
KILLS ON KILLS ON KILLS
Kansas saw five different Jayhawks chalk up double-digit kills on the road at TCU (11/1). Seniors Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton led the way with 14 apiece, while middle blockers Tayler Soucie and Janae Hall tagged 13 each. Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery swung for 10 kills, the first time the Jayhawks posted a balanced performance like that since October 23, 2013 against Iowa State.
WORTH THE WAIT
Sophomore libero Cassie Wait led the Jayhawks with 23 digs at TCU (11/1), and her 11th match with 20+ digs this season pushed her into a new level. With 417 digs in 2014, she jumped former KU littles Catalina Suarez (406, 1985) and Adrian Powell (208; 1981) to move into ninth all-time at KU in digs for a single season.
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers is inching toward her 100th career start as No. 97 will likely happen against Baylor. Not only does she rank in the top-10 in the Big 12 in kills (3.07) and points per set (3.56), but she is also iconic on the defensive end. Her 848 career kills are impressive, but her 793 career digs is what makes her iconic. In all, only 11 Jayhawks before her have hit the 800-kill/800-dig mark in their careers. The last time an outside hitter (or a right-side, in both of their cases) tallied 800-career digs was Emily Brown, who eclipsed the mark in 2007.
The KU-TCU match (11/1) marked just the fifth time this season that Kansas has been outhit in a match (.218/.179). It’s also the fifth time the Jayhawks have been out-blocked (12.0/8.0) – but is only the third time in 2014 that both occurred at the same time.
After the loss at TCU (11/1), the Jayhawks are a shocking 0-5 in five-set matches this season. Since the Big 12 was formed in 1996, Kansas has never lost five-straight five-set matches. In that span, only once did the Jayhawks go an entire season without winning a single full-length match (0-3; 2001).
Kansas chalked up its 20th and 21st double-doubles of the season at TCU (11/1). Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers tallied her seventh of the season with 14 kills and 13 digs, the 14th of her career. Meanwhile, freshman setter Ainise Havili owns the Jayhawks’ double-double game. She racked up career-highs in both assists (57) and digs (19) at TCU, good for her 12th double-double in her rookie season, the third-most by any Big 12 player in 2014.
Freshman setter Ainise Havili has serious potential to overthrow records in her first season as the Jayhawks’ floor general. With 982 assists, Havili sits in fourth place in KU history for assists by a freshman. With a career-high 57 assists at TCU (11/1) on Saturday, Havili is currently averaging 42.7 assists per match, putting her on pace to take over the most assists by a KU rookie (Katie Martincich, 2006, 1,193). She also ranks second in the Big 12 in total assists (982) and assists per set (11.16).
BATTLE AT BAYLOR
When the Jayhawks started conference play at 0-3, head coach Ray Bechard said the primary focus would be on his team’s ability to finish: finish rallies, finish plays and finish matches. At Baylor (10/10), Kansas did exactly that. KU faced a 19-15 deficit in set three and fell behind 21-18 in set four. Rather than giving the Bears the chance to turn their lead into a win, Kansas rallied for crucial comeback efforts and finished the third set on a 13-7 run and the fourth set on a 7-1 tear.
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 67 matches (No. 5 Washington, 12/13/13; No. 3 Penn State, 9/13/14).
Kansas checks in at No. 27 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.
With 13 kills against TCU (11/1), senior outside hitter Sara McClinton now has 1,164 for her career, putting her within four of Emily Brown (1,168; 2004-07) for eighth on KU’s all-time career kills list. McClinton is one of two players in the Big 12 with 1,000 career kills (Haley Eckerman, Texas), and is the 14th Jayhawk all-time to reach the 1,000-kill mark at Kansas.
SCOUTING BAYLOR (13-11, 3-6 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. The Bears come to Lawrence after collecting big back-to-back wins against Iowa State and at Texas Tech. Entering the week, the Bears lead the Big 12 in kills per set (13.82) – the only team with more kills per set than Kansas (13.77).
Former Iowa State standout Andie Malloy transferred to Baylor last year and is killing it. After sitting out a year per in-conference transfer rules, Malloy paces the team with 4.01 kills per set, which ranks second in the Big 12. Defensively, she also leads the team with 2.94 digs per set. Malloy led the Bears’ offense against Kansas earlier this season with 17 kills and 15 digs. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Katie Staiger checks in behind Malloy with 3.05 kills per set. Junior setter Amy Rosenbaum runs the offense with 10.35 assists per set.
At the net, sophomore middle blocker Tola Itiola leads the team with a .327 attack percentage and her 0.98 blocks per set are bested only by redshirt sophomore middle Sam Hill’s 1.00 average.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On the parity in the Big 12 keeping all of the conference teams’ RPI strong:
“Everybody is in striking distance. Baylor put themselves back in it with back-to-back wins, and a great win on the road at Texas Tech most recently and before that it was Iowa State. They have so much to play for and have a strong strength of schedule. We had to play very, very well to get a good result down there and I expect the same type of battle here.”
On the “anybody can beat anybody” results among teams in the Big 12:
“That’s what we’ve got to remember. We’ve had some disappointing five-set losses, but we’ve played better teams. Obviously, we had good results like year, and you can’t make comparisons, but you can say when you go down the list of each team in the league and ask ‘Are they better than they were last year?’ and the answer is yes. That attributes itself as to why we’ve played so many five-set matches, why we’ve played so many close games – not only with us, but it’s been pretty status quo throughout the league.”
On the differences between a veteran team last year and a young team this year in those situations:
“Two things are happening: our team is youthful and we’re playing better teams. So, last year’s team would’ve been in a five-set match against teams that weren’t as good. the league is better. We’re still in a situation where we control our own future. We’ve got to minimize the disappointments and just win as many matches as we can. We’re at a point now where the we’re getting into the stretch run of the season, but you can’t look ahead. Right now we’re focused on one team and one team only – that’s a very good Baylor team.”
Kansas will play its third-straight Texas team on Saturday, Nov. 8 when the Jayhawks travel to Lubbock for a meeting with Texas Tech. First serve from the United Supermarkets Arena is slated for 3 p.m.
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