Sunflower Showdown Part Two: KU Heads to Manhattan
LAWRENCE, Kan. – In the first edition of the 2014 Sunflower Showdown, a true rivalry match played out with Kansas State taking an early lead and Kansas winning the next two sets before KSU clawed its way to a five-set win. Now on Kansas State’s turf, the Jayhawks are hoping the visiting team again can prevail as the two are set two face off inside Ahearn Fieldhouse Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
vs. Kansas State (KSU leads, 62-40): Kansas State came to Lawrence on Oct. 1 ready to snap Kansas’ four-straight win streak in the series, a feat the Jayhawks had previously not pulled off since 1993. The Wildcats accomplished that with their five-set win. In a series that dates back to 1975, KSU leads the all-time mark in matches played in Manhattan, 26-12.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
The KU-KSU match will be televised on Cox Channel Kansas (channel 22), while it can also be streamed on K-StateHD.TV for those that don’t have Cox. Brian Smoller (play-by-play) and Liz Wegner-Busch (analyst) will provide the analysis. Fans can also listen to radio play-by-play on KUAthletics.com, found under the Fan Central tab, free of charge. 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 1,007-284.
- Kansas logged its third comeback victory of the season at Texas Tech (11/8) after falling behind 0-1 to the Red Raiders. With the win, KU is above .500 in conference play for the first time in 2014.
- Kansas jumped up to No. 20 in the latest NCAA RPI projections (11/10). 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 10-7 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 leads the Big 12 with 13.80 kills per set. Prior to Wednesday night, the Kansas State Wildcats rank third in the league (13.71).
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili leads the Big 12 in conference-only action with 11.29 assists per set. Overall, the rookie floor general is second in assist average (11.22), while her 1,066 overall assists on the season is more than other setter in the conference.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait is moving up KU’s list of most digs in a single season. Entering the week, her 452 digs are the seventh-most in a single season at Kansas.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers ranks in the top-10 in the conference in kills (3.01) and points (3.50) per set. During the Baylor (11/5) match, Albers became the 12th Jayhawk all-time to post 800 career kills and 800 career digs.
- Middle blockers Tayler Soucie and Kelsie Payne are each in the top-10 in the Big 12 in the major categories for their position. Soucie is the second-best blocker in the league with 1.37 blocks per set, while Payne ranks eighth with a 1.03 average. In attack percentage, Payne is second in the conference (.356), while Soucie is sixth (.327).
Last month, Kansas became the fourth instance in Big 12 Conference history that a team claimed all three weekly awards. On Nov. 10, the Jayhawks became the first Big 12 team to pull off the sweep twice in the same season. Tiana Dockery (offensive), Cassie Wait (defensive) and Ainise Havili (rookie) were each awarded for their league-leading performances the week of Nov. 3-10. Kansas won multiple awards in the same week six times in program history, five of which have come within the last two seasons.
PLAYERS OF WEEK
For the year, KU has tallied eight total awards by five different players. Last season, the Jayhawks broke the Big 12 record with seven total players being recognized (6, Texas, 2008), while their 11 total awards in 2013 tied for fifth-most in conference history.
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)
Nov. 10 – Tiana Dockery (Offensive)
Nov. 10 – Cassie Wait (Defensive)
Nov. 10 – Ainise Havili (Rookie)
While the Jayhawks are not used to playing behind, they aren’t half bad at it. At Texas Tech (11/8), the Jayhawks fell behind early after losing the first set. They quickly righted the ship, however, and came away with a 3-1 win. That marked the third time this year that KU lost the first set and came back to win. Additionally, Kansas has gone to the break tied 1-1 only to later earn the win.
HAVILI vs. ZUMACH
Kansas setter Ainise Havili was the first Jayhawk to be tagged the Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year. She has done her part to uphold that status as she is the only setter with 500+ assists in conference action and leads all Big 12 setters with 1,066 assists. Her 12 double-doubles are the most of any Big 12 freshman and rank third overall. Plus, Havili has been named the Big 12 Rookie of the Week three times this season. Giving her a run for her money, however, is Kansas State freshman outside hitter Kylee Zumach. With the addition of last Friday’s 12 kills at Texas, Zumach set the record for kills in season by a K-State freshman during the rally-scoring era (since 2001). Zumach is a five-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week and leads all Big 12 freshmen with 337 kills and 3.62 kills/set this season.
WHAT’S UP, DOCK?
Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery has hit her stride in Big 12 play. She has double-digit kills in seven different league contests in 2014, including her first 20-kill performance of the year at Texas Tech (11/8). That marked the biggest output by Dockery since her 21 kills led the Jayhawks to a comeback victory at No. 25 Wisconsin on Sept. 13, 2013.
Kansas and Kansas State squared off for the 102nd time on Oct. 1, which resulted in the Wildcats snapping a four-match losing streak to the Jayhawks. The match was the epitome of a rivalry as the two fought back-and-forth all night, extending points with diving digs and continued blocks at the net. By night’s end, KU collected more kills (65-60), more digs (79-73), more assists (61-58), more blocks (12.0-10.5) and more points (80.0-72.5) – but the Wildcats still stole the victory.
HUNT FOR 20
Sitting at 18 victories with six matches to play, Kansas is in position to reach, or surpass, the 20-win mark for the third-straight season. Such a streak would be a first for Jayhawk volleyball since the 1980-1981-1982 seasons.
SET THE TABLE
Entering the week, Kansas’ 65 set victories are the most among all Big 12 teams. Although Kansas State is the only team in the conference that has won 20 matches (20-5), the Wildcats are second to KU with 62 set wins while first-place Texas at 18-1 overall has won 54 sets this year.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
Kansas has endured its share of serving issues, but the Jayhawks have picked up as of late. In 11 conference matches, KU has out-aced its opponent 10 of those times. Kansas ranked last in services aces in 2013, but has moved to seventh in the league overall and fifth in conference-only action this fall. Freshmen Madison Rigdon (0.32) and Ainise Havili (0.27) each rank in the top-10 in the Big 12 in service aces per set, while Havili leads the team with 26 aces for the season. In addition, sophomore libero Cassie Wait is on point from the line. She only has seven aces, but she has made 94 percent of her serves in 2014.
1,000 AND COUNTING
Freshman setter Ainise Havili has serious potential to overthrow records in her first season as the Jayhawks’ floor general as she passed the 1,000-assist mark against Baylor (11/5).
That makes Havili just the fourth Jayhawk in program history to dish out 1,000 assists as a freshman. Currently averaging 42.5 assists per match, Havili is still on pace to take over the most assists by a KU rookie (Katie Martincich, 2006, 1,193). Her 1,066 assists lead all Big 12 setters, while the 11.22 assist average ranks second.
Kansas checks in at No. 20 in the latest RPI projections (11/10). On the latest RPI, 16 of KU’s 22 opponents are in the top-100. All but three of those 22 opponents have winning records. Four of the last five teams that Kansas will face in the remaining matches on the regular-season schedule are against top-25 RPI opponents: Kansas State (No. 16), Iowa State (No. 18), Texas (No. 4) and Oklahoma (No. 24).
SCOUTING KANSAS STATE (20-5, 7-4 BIG 12 CONFERENCE)
The Wildcats are led by 14-year head coach Suzie Fritz, who both played (1990-91) and coached (1995-96) under Kansas coach Ray Bechard while in his previous role as the head coach at Barton County Community College. Kansas State was voted to finish fifth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll and currently sits in third place, just one match ahead of Kansas. KSU concluded the non-conference season with a 13-1 record, capped by an 11-match winning streak. The Wildcats have big wins against Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma to their credit this season, but enter Wednesday’s matchup after back-to-back losses at Texas and Iowa State.
The graduation of two-time All-American Kaitlynn Pelger has given opportunities for new faces to win the role of offensive leader for K-State. Freshman outside hitter Kylee Zumach is a five-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week award winner and leads the team with 3.62 kills per set, which ranks third in the Big 12. The Jayhawks will also face Mississippi State transfer, sophomore outside hitter Brooke Sassin. She is right behind Zumach with a 3.00 kill average.
Redshirt sophomore setter Katie Brand returns to distribute the offense and is neck-and-neck in the conference setter race with KU’s Ainise Havili. Brand averages 11.24 assists per set, while Havili sits at 11.22. At the net, redshirt senior middle Natali Jones averages a Big 12-best 1.42 stuffs.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On the K-State matchup:
“We have a lot of kids not from Kansas, but we have an opportunity to play a good team on the road late in the season. We also have an opportunity to move up in the standings and continue to work on becoming a better team. It’s an in-state rival and a match against a good team.”
On the weight the K-State match has on KU’s season:
“This game has more impact on the standings than the last couple years have. We are trying to maintain our goals; top-half of the conference, even top-three in the conference, and the NCAA Tournament. You have to play very well to get a win on the road in this league and all of those things kind of come together with our opportunity in Manhattan.”
On the team K-State will see from KU this time around:
“The first match seems like it was a long time ago, there was some good volleyball being played. I’m sure they’re different, playing better, and hopefully we have matured and are playing better as well. That was earlier in the year when we got hit with three really good teams in a row and K-State being one of those. It will be tough; we are young, but we aren’t young anymore because these newcomers have played 25 matches. They also have newcomers that have played 25 matches so now both teams are in a point in time where here is what we’ve got now let’s get after it.”
On KU in Big 12 play:
“I think that at Tech, even though we weren’t playing our best, we were just determined to figure out how to win the sets and that’s very important. I think that comes with a little bit of experience and the ability to grind and know that it’s not going to pretty some nights. It’s not going to be easy, but you’ve got to find out a way. That’s how teams separate themselves from upper division and lower division in our league and obviously we feel like we are an upper-division team and we have to continue that mentality to maintain that.”
On Tiana Dockery:
“We want to see her consistently be at the level she is now, that’s the challenge for even the great players. You have to figure out how to bring some form of consistency from that level. That way, we know each night what we are going to get out (of her). It would be tough to get 20 kills every night out, but for her to take big swings and be competitive like that is certainly what the Jayhawks need.”
Kansas will take its Saturday bye of the conference season on Nov. 15 and hit the court at home on Wednesday, Nov. 19 against Iowa State. First serve from the Horejsi Family Athletics Center is set for 6:30 p.m. The match will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
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