Sunflower Showdown: No. 23 Kansas Welcomes Kansas State
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Looking for four-straight victories against in-state rival Kansas State for the first time in 20 years, the 23rd-ranked Kansas volleyball team will host the Wildcats in the final edition of volleyball’s 2013 Sunflower Showdown inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
AROUND THE GYM
- 2003 Team 10th Anniversary: Kansas volleyball is welcoming back the program’s first NCAA Tournament team by honoring the 2003 Jayhawks during intermission.
- Alumni Weekend: Kansas volleyball honors returning alumni from more than 35 years of program history
vs. Kansas State (KSU leads, 61-39): Earlier this season, the Jayhawks and Wildcats met for the 100th time in series history and it was KU that came out victorious. The win signified KU’s third-straight in the series, marking the first time since 1993 that Kansas defeated Kansas State three times in a row. KSU holds a 28-17 advantage in Lawrence.
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.
Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (formerly Metro Sports), will televise Saturday night’s contest. Fans outside of Kansas can access the TV stream by going to ESPN3.com or visiting KUAthletics.com/ESPN. Leif Lisec and former Kansas volleyball player Jill Dorsey-Hall will provide the analysis. For more information on accessing Kansas video content, visit KUAthletics.com/TV. Fans can also monitor the action on Live Stats or by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
- After becoming No. 1 Texas’ 14th-straight victim in their last time out (11/9), the Jayhawks enter the weekend in third place in the Big 12 standings behind first-place Texas and second-place Iowa State.
- Two of the conference’s best defensive teams will square off on Saturday as Kansas State leads the league in blocks per set (2.84) and Kansas is third (2.61). Both squads have two players on the league’s top-10 blocking list.
- Meanwhile, Kansas is holding opposing teams to a .177 attack percentage – second only to Kansas State (.175) in the conference rankings.
- KU moved up to No. 23 in this week’s AVCA Top-25 Poll (11/11), marking the fifth week Kansas has been on the national poll this season.
- The Jayhawks also improved their footing in the RPI, jumping to No. 13 on the latest NCAA RPI projections (11/11). KU has been in the RPI’s top-20 every week of the last two seasons.
- Two players in the Big 12 hit for a better efficiency than freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie (.358). She trails OU senior Sallie McLaurin (.439) and Texas rookie Chiaka Ogbogu (.419).
- Senior setter Erin McNorton leads the Big 12 for the 11th-straight week with 12.26 assists per set. Only two setters in the country average more assists per set than McNorton: Caitlin Dotson, Lipscomb (12.68) and Molly Kreklow, Missouri (12.67).
- Kansas ranks in the top-20 in the NCAA in kills (14.60, 9th NCAA), assists (13.65, 11th NCAA) and hitting percentage (.264, 20th NCAA). Blocking isn’t too shabby either as KU’s 2.61 blocks per set is 40th-best in the country.
Saturday could see head coach Ray Bechard and his Jayhawks reach another milestone as a win over Kansas State would give Kansas 20 victories on the season. If that occurs, it would mark the first time in the Bechard era that KU has posted back-to-back 20-win seasons. In fact, the last time KU posted the accomplishment was in the 1982 (22-29) and 1983 (26-21) seasons. The last time they did it with winning records? 1977 (35-24-4) and 1978 (31-24-2).
ROAD SWEET ROAD
Kansas’ loss at No. 1 Texas is only the second loss that the Jayhawks have suffered on the road this season and the first in Big 12 play. KU is 9-2 in road matches in 2013, with true road victories at Wisconsin (RPI: 16), Arizona (RPI: 25) and Arkansas (RPI: 36).
DON’T BE FOOLED
KU plays pretty well at home, too. The Horejsi Family Athletics Center also plays witness to solid volleyball. In their last 30 matches at home, dating back to the 2011 season, the Jayhawks are an impressive 25-5. KU’s fans are well aware as the HFAC has averaged more than 1,100 people in attendance during those last 30 home matches.
JARMOC vs. PELGER
Saturday will likely mark the last meeting between two of the conference’s best middle blockers in KU redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc and KSU senior Kaitlynn Pelger. The duo chases each other all over the Big 12’s top-10 lists as Jarmoc is fourth in the league in blocks per set (1.22), while Pelger is ninth (1.04). Jarmoc scores 4.02 points per set, the fourth-best in the conference, while Pelger scores 3.97 – the fifth-best.
The two rank first and second in the league in active career kills with Pelger at the top (1,461) and Jarmoc following her (1,249). Jarmoc has the upper hand at the net, however, with 527 total blocks (best in KU history) compared to Pelger’s 405.
Kansas is in the hunt to knock off its rival Kansas State for the fourth-straight meeting, a feat that hasn’t happened in more than 20 years. From 1989-1993, KU defeated KSU in 10-straight meetings. Since then, the Jayhawks haven’t put together a streak of more than three-consecutive wins against their rivals until this fall.
In the last two matches, freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie squared off against two potential Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidates in West Virginia’s outside hitter Jordan Anderson and Texas’ middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu. Facing WVU (11/6), Soucie rattled off 10 kills for a .600 attack percentage and four blocks. Anderson, meanwhile, led all players with 18 kills but totaled a .191 hitting efficiency. She recorded 11 digs, but no blocks. Against Texas (11/9), Soucie again came through with 11 kills and .333 attack numbers, while Ogbogu registered only two kills and one error.
SOUCIE MAKES THREE
Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie enters the weekend with 165 kills and 99 total blocks. If the Jayhawk rookie can pick up one more block before season’s end, she will become just the third true freshman in program history to surpass 100 blocks and 100 kills in her debut season. Emily Brown (231 kills/113 blocks) and Josi Lima (327 kills/103 blocks) are the only other players on the short list. The chances are good as Souice has recorded at least one block in 22-straight matches.
HOW SWEEP IT IS
The Jayhawks started their season with only two sweeps in the first 10 matches. Fifteen matches later, KU has accumulated 10 victories in 3-0 fashion. More impressively, the Jayhawks have yet to be swept this season and haven’t been since Oct. 12, 2012 (at No. 9 Texas) – a span of 38 matches.
KU fell victim to the Longhorns for the 20th-straight meeting (11/9), but were able to pull positives from the 3-1 loss. KU’s second-set win marked just the third set the Longhorns had surrendered at home in Big 12 play this season, while the double-digit margin of victory was KU’s biggest against UT since Nov. 8, 2003. In fact, it marked the first time Kansas had taken a set in Austin since Set. 21, 2005. Additionally, Texas’ 15 points in the second set were its fewest since a 13-point production in the fourth set against then-No. 1 Penn State (9/7).
ATTACKING THE RECORD
Kansas’ .264 attack percentage as a team ranks second in the Big 12 conference behind defending national champion and current No. 1 Texas. If the season ended today, however, the Jayhawks would handily beat the current program record (.246, 2003).
COUNTDOWN TO 2,000
Senior libero Brianne Riley recorded 21 digs at Texas (11/9), moving her just 68 digs shy of the 2,000-career mark. Only six players in Big 12 history have surpassed the 2,000-dig barrier.
SCOUTING KANSAS STATE (16-8 Overall, 4-7 Big 12)
The Wildcats are led by 13-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 fourth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, right behind the Jayhawks, and currently sit in fifth. KSU concluded the non-conference season with an 11-1 record, racking up wins at Cal and Arkansas. Although the team stumbled in its Big 12 opener, falling at West Virginia in four sets, the Wildcats have won two of its last three – including a sweep of No. 25 Oklahoma.
Two-time All-American Kaitlynn Pelger leads the offense with 3.06 kills per set. The senior middle blocker broke loose for 16 kills and a .619 attack percentage in the Wildcats’ win over West Virginia (11/9). Her .260 attack percentage paces the attackers, who are registering an uncharacteristic .192 hitting efficiency as a team. While the Wildcats start a veteran lineup, redshirt freshman Katie Brand distributes the offense, averaging 10.11 assists per set.
Defensively, senior libero Tristan McCarty leads a well-balanced defense with 3.31 digs per set. Pelger (2.38) and Brand (2.44) both average more than two digs per set. At the net, redshirt junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson leads the Big 12’s best blocking team with 1.31 blocks per set, which ranks second in the Big 12. Pelger checks in at ninth in the league with 1.04 blocks per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On facing rival Kansas State:
“This time of year there are teams that are trying to continue to reach goals and we’ve got goals in front of us. I’m sure they’ve got goals in front of them and it’s an important match for us because it’s our next match. I’m sure they feel the same way. Obviously, there’s an added interest that it’s an in-state rival, but we’ve got to continue to work towards those things that are going to allow us to be successful not only Saturday, but as we complete our conference season and, hopefully if things go well, beyond.”
On Kansas State’s season:
“They’ve won two of their last three. They swept Oklahoma and just really dominated West Virginia. They’re experienced and I know they’ll come together and give a great effort. I’m sure it’ll be some high level volleyball in Horesji. You can concern yourself with opponent tendencies and what they’re going to try to do, but at the same time we’ll use this week to really focus on Kansas and what we can do better. What we can do a little better each and every day to try to be the complete team that we want to be.”
On the last career matchup between middle blockers Caroline Jarmoc and Kaitlynn Pelger:
“Both have been great for each of their respective program. (Kaitlynn) Pelger has had a tremendous career there, she is as versatile of a player as there is in the league for all that she does for her team. She should be congratulated for a great run. Obviously, (Caroline) Jarmoc has done a lot of great things for us, too. We continue to try to work towards great balance and we’ve achieved that at times this year. When Jarmoc’s playing at a high level that makes everyone else’s job a little bit easier because people continue to game plan for her, which allows for us to strive to have the type of balance we want to have.”
On coming off the loss to Texas to play Kansas State after a midweek bye:
“You’ve got to manage the week. It’s a longer training session, and we need to be careful that we’re mindful of getting work done, but at the same time trying to keep energy and an enthusiasm and a freshness about your team. I think the team will prepare well this week and we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. When we are done with our match on Saturday we are looking at a two-week season, which suddenly keeps things in prospective. So there’s no reason for us not to train hard, play hard and continue to try to get better.”
On the alumni – and specifically the 2003 team – being recognized Saturday:
“We’ve got a bunch of alumni coming in, but the 2003 team will be near and dear to all Jayhawk fans because they were really the first team to break through and make history and get into the NCAA tournament. What a lot of people might not know is all of the adversity that that team went through to get to that point that year with injuries and other things and difficult losses and huge wins. It’ll be fun to see the majority of that group come back and reminisce. They’ll probably think they were better volleyball players now that it’s 10 years later, we all do that. They certainly created a period in Kansas volleyball history that was a really positive one for sure.”
Kansas continues its tough stretch of schedule, this time on the road at Iowa State on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Battling for the Big 12’s second-place spot, the Jayhawks and Cyclones are set to square off at 6:30 p.m. inside Hilton Coliseum.
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