No. 24 Kansas, No. 1 Texas Set Stage for Big 12 Battle
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Sitting alone in second place in the Big 12 Conference standings, No. 24 Kansas will travel to the defending national champions’ home court and face the top-ranked Texas Longhorns inside Gregory Gym, Saturday at 2 p.m.
vs. Texas (UT leads, 34-4): Texas holds a 34-4 all-time record against Kansas in a series that dates back to 1981. At home, the Jayhawks are 3-15 against the perennial power, while the Longhorns hold the lopsided advantage in Austin, 16-1, and are 3-0 against Kansas on a neutral court. UT has been in the nation’s top-10 in the previous 15-consecutive meetings. The last time Kansas upended the Longhorns marked the Jayhawks’ only win in Austin, knocking off the Longhorns in five sets on Nov. 8, 2003. Texas has gone on to win the next 19-consecutive meetings. KU and UT squared off as the last unbeaten in conference play on Oct. 12 in front of a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center crowd, but the Longhorns left Lawrence with the 3-1 win.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
Fans can listen to radio play-by-play on the Jayhawk Digital Passport, found under the Fan Central tab on KUAthletics.com. Subscriptions are available in daily ($2.95), monthly ($6.95) and yearly ($49.95) increments. Aaron Berlin will have the call.
The match will be broadcast on the Longhorn Network with limited access in Kansas. Fans can also monitor the action on Live Stats or by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
- With a win against West Virginia (11/6), Kansas moved to 9-2 in the Big 12 standings. Iowa State did not play on Wednesday, giving the Jayhawks a half-game lead in the conference race. Texas sits in first with a perfect 10-0 record.
- The Big 12’s best offense will square off against its best defense on Saturday as Texas leads the league in attack percentage (.278), while KU stifles opponents to a conference-best .173 efficiency.
- KU returned to this week’s AVCA Top-25 Poll (11/4), marking the fourth week Kansas has been on the national poll this season.
- The Jayhawks moved to No. 17 on the latest NCAA RPI projections (11/4), which puts KU in the NCAA RPI’s top-20 every week of the last two seasons.
- Defending Big 12 Rookie of the Week, freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie, has 44 kills compared to four errors in the Jayhawks’ last four matches.
- Six different Jayhawks rank in the top-10 in six different Big 12 statistical categories – highlighted by the conference’s best setter in senior Erin McNorton.
- McNorton leads the Big 12 for the 10th-straight week with 12.29 assists per set. Only two setters in the country average more assists per set than McNorton: Caitlin Dotson, Lipscomb (12.76) and Molly Kreklow, Missouri (12.66).
- Jarmoc leads the KU individual rankings as she appears on four of the Big 12’s top-10 lists: blocks per set (1.24, 3rd), points per set (4.05, 4th), hitting percentage (.324, 6th) and kills per set (3.15, 8th).
- Kansas ranks in the top-30 in the NCAA in kills (14.59, 10th NCAA), assists (13.64, 12th NCAA), hitting percentage (.268, 22nd NCAA) and blocks (2.68, 27th NCAA). The Jayhawks also lead the conference in each of those categories, minus attack percentage – which ranks second.
In back-to-back matchups, freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie will square off against her Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidates. West Virginia freshman outside hitter Jordan Anderson has led the league all season in kills per set, consistently averaging an astounding four or more kills per set. She led the floor with 18 kills in Kansas’ win against the Mountaineers (11/6). Texas has the other potential nominee in middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu. While Ogbogu is hitting for a .430 average in 2013, Soucie is cranking along at a .360 pace, which rank second and third in the conference, respectively. The Jayhawk rookie has the market cornered at the net, however, as she is the only freshman on the Big 12’s top-10 blocking list.
TOP VS. TOP
Predictably, a match between the conference’s first and second-place teams would feature a full cast of quality players. Heading into the weekend, Texas and Kansas have six total players in the Big 12’s top-10 in attack percentage – leaving just four spots for the other seven conference teams.
ON A MISSION
The Kansas seniors have been involved with numerous firsts and milestones during their career, including 77 total wins, the best winning percentage in program history (.788, 2012), the program’s first All-American (Caroline Jarmoc, 2012), hosting the NCAA First and Second Rounds, the highest AVCA ranking (No. 17) and the highest RPI projection (No. 6)… but this special seven-member senior class is looking to do something they’ve never done: beat Texas.
Kansas hit .396 in the win against West Virginia (11/6), cranking out 46 kills compared to a mere six errors. Taking command early, KU’s 17 kills and zero errors equated to a .586 percentage in the opening frame. In a true testament to senior setter Erin McNorton and her offense, the red-hot first set didn’t even crack the Jayhawks’ top-three for the season (.667 second set vs. TCU; .650 second set at Creighton; .593 second set vs. North Dakota State; .591 fourth set vs. Arkansas). Additionally, KU has hit .400 or higher in 17 different sets this year.
BREAK THE TREND
Texas enters the weekend on a 12-match win streak and a perfect 10-0 start in conference play. On Saturday, Kansas is hoping to hand the Longhorns just their third Big 12 loss in their last 58 matches.
COUNTDOWN TO 2,000
Senior libero Brianne Riley recorded her 50th-straight match with double-digit digs against West Virginia (11/6). She is now 89 digs shy of the 2,000-career mark. Only six players in Big 12 history have surpassed the 2,000 barrier.
Junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers recorded five digs against West Virginia (11/6) to propel her to the first 200-kill/200-dig season of her career as she currently stands at 238 kills and 204 digs. Albers was a rookie the last time a Jayhawk accomplished that feat (Allison Mayfield, 2011).
BALANCE IS KEY
KU is the only team in the Big 12 with three players in the top-10 in both blocks and points per set. Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc and junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers are on both top-10 lists. Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton checks in on both the kills and points per set list, while freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie is in the top-10 for hitting percentage and blocks.
SCOUTING No. 1 TEXAS (17-2 Overall, 10-0 Big 12)
Reigning AVCA National Coach of the Year, Jerritt Elliott, started his 13th season following the Longhorns’ run to the 2012 NCAA Championship. With the third national title in program history in tow, Elliott and the Longhorns kicked off their 2013 campaign at No. 11 Hawaii, which resulted in a season-opening loss. Things picked up significantly after that, including back-to-back wins against No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Stanford. The Longhorns have suffered just one loss since opening day, against Arizona State, and haven’t lost since. On Saturday, KU will meet a team on a 12-match win streak that hasn’t lost since Sept. 13.
No offense comes in with more accolades than the reigning champs, who features the last four-consecutive Big 12 Players of the Year, including current players Haley Eckerman (2012) and Bailey Webster (2011). Eckerman, who also went on to be named the 2012 AVCA National Co-Player of the Year, leads the Longhorns with 3.70 kills per set. Webster joins Eckerman on the outside hitter crew and is racking up a 3.39 kill average. Senior setter Hannah Allison and freshman Chloe Collins are splitting time dishing the ball around, both averaging a little more than seven assists per set.
Texas’ offensive strength from the pins is heavily backed by the middle blockers. All-American junior Khat Bell leads the team with 1.22 blocks per set. A new face has also emerged in rookie middle Chiaka Ogbogu, who leads the team with a .430 attack percentage. A 2012 UnderArmour High School All-American and the Gatorade Texas Volleyball Player of the Year, Ogbogu played at the HS All-America match played in December at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville alongside teammate Chloe Collins – and current Jayhawk freshman Cassie Wait.
Another familiar face lines the back row in senior libero Sarah Palmer. Her 3.69 digs per set lead the team, although digs are not the Longhorns’ strong suit, as they rank eighth in the league.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On the Jayhawks hitting .586 in the first set against West Virginia:
“Erin McNorton has a great deal to do with that. The first thing is her deciding which set to set, then what tempo should be used, analyze different blocking matchups and there are so many scenarios setters go through to make good choices and give her hitters opportunities. Obviously, when you hit over .500 with no errors, you must be putting your hitters in good opportunity. She’s quiet in many ways, but she creates so many avenues for our hitters.”
On the senior class being determined to beat Texas for the first time in their careers:
“I actually didn’t realize that until it came up before we played them at our place, which might’ve led up to us playing a little bit tight. It would be awesome. First and foremost, it would be awesome for us to be a really great team on the road. The fact that its Texas obviously has value, too, but it would mean more than ‘Hey we finally beat them.’ It would mean that we’re playing at a really high level at the right time of year.”
On how road matches at Texas, at Iowa State and at Oklahoma could improve hosting chances:
“We just have to take them one at a time. The Texas match would have as much value as any match in the conference race and in the overall national scheme of things. We play well on the road, for the most part, and we’re going to have to win some of those – so why not Saturday? It will probably be the most difficult, but at the same time, the most rewarding. I think that would obviously give the RPI a bump. They all have value. Each match has its own significance of some sort.”
Kansas will receive its midweek bye next week and resume action in Lawrence, when the Jayhawks welcome the Kansas State Wildcats to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Saturday, Nov. 16. The match will serve as Kansas Volleyball Alumni Night and will honor the 10-year anniversary of KU’s first NCAA Tournament team. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.
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