Jayhawks Start Final Stretch With Iowa State
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas picked up the major win it needed at No. 23 Kansas State to kick off the final five matches of the regular season. Now with four to play and just a half-game back from a tie for second place in the Big 12 Conference standings, the Jayhawk volleyball team will welcome Iowa State to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
AROUND THE GYM
- Hike and Spike: $3 admission with football ticket from KU vs. TCU game
- Jay Days: $2 hot dog and popcorn; $1 mini cone
- Family Four-Pack: Two adult/two youth tickets for $20
vs. Iowa State (ISU leads, 47-37-1): In 2013, Kansas also found itself fighting for second place in the Big 12. The 22nd-ranked Jayhawks did what they hadn’t done since 2004 – went into Ames and defeated Iowa State. The Cyclones still have the upper hand as of late in the all-time series that dates back to 1975, winning nine of the last 10 meetings in Ames, including a five-set victory on Oct. 22. At Hilton Coliseum, ISU holds a convincing lead in the series, 27-8. In Lawrence, however, Kansas has the upper hand in the series, 18-15-1.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
The KU-ISU match will air on the Time Warner Cable SportsChannel with Leif Lisec and former Kansas volleyball standout Jill (Dorsey) Hall providing the analysis. The broadcast will also be available on ESPN3.com. 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 1,008-284.
- Kansas is receiving votes on the latest AVCA Coaches’ Poll. In the last 39 weeks, KU has appeared on 30 of those polls.
- Since starting 0-3 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks have gone 7-2 to propel themselves just a half-game out of a tie for second place. KU is 7-5 in league play this season to momentarily be solo in fourth place in the standings, while ISU is a half-game behind that at 7-6.
- Kansas jumped up to No. 16 in the latest NCAA RPI projections (11/17). That means KU has been outside of the RPI’s top-20 just three weeks in the last three years. Thus far in 2014, KU is 1-4 vs. top-25 RPI teams, 1-6 vs. top-50 and 10-7 vs. top-100 (at match time).
- The Jayhawk offense leads the Big 12 with 13.87 kills per set. Prior to Wednesday night, the Cyclones rank third in the league (13.70). Iowa State does have a stronghold as the conference’s digs leader (16.55).
- Senior outside hitter Sara McClinton was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week (11/17) thanks to her 18 kills and zero errors on the road at No. 23 Kansas State (11/12). That marks the third weekly award of her career.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili is starting to make a habit of leading the Big 12 in assists. For the week, Havili again led her conference counterparts in assist average with an impressive 12.67 mark. Havili leads the Big 12 in assists per set both overall (11.27) and conference-only (11.38) action.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait is moving up KU’s list of most digs in a single season. Entering the week, her 461 digs are the seventh-most in a single season at Kansas. Her 4.70 digs per set rank third in the Big 12.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers will likely start her 100th career match against Iowa State. She ranks in the top-10 in the conference in kills (3.00) and points (3.49) per set. Her 2.58 dig average ties Havili for second-highest on the team.
- 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 third-best blocker in the league with 1.39 blocks per set, while Payne ranks ninth with a 1.03 average. In attack percentage, Payne is second in the conference (.356), while Soucie is eighth (.319).
HUNT FOR 20
Sitting at 19 victories with four 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.
Playing in the last Sunflower Showdown of her career, senior outside hitter Sara McClinton wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass. McClinton, a two-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree, was unstoppable inside Kansas State’s Ahearn Fieldhouse (11/12). She tied her season-high with 18 kills and no errors to lead Kansas to its fourth-ever sweep against the Wildcats in Manhattan. For the week, the Omaha native led the Big 12 with an impressive 6.0 kills per set to earn her third career Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award on Nov. 17.
PLAYERS OF WEEK
For the year, KU has tallied nine total awards by six 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)
Nov. 17 – Sara McClinton (Offensive)
When Kansas and Kansas State met in Lawrence on Oct. 1, it marked just the second conference match for half of the Jayhawks as seven members of the roster are freshmen. On Nov. 12, Kansas certainly looked all grown up as the Jayhawks collected their third-straight win in Manhattan – and the second consecutive-sweep.
KU swept Kansas State in Manhattan for just the fourth time in series history (Nov. 12, 2014; Oct. 2, 2013; Oct. 17, 2009; Sept. 11, 1981). The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 62-41, but the Jayhawks have won five of the last six meetings between the two.
Coming down the stretch of the regular season, KU seniors Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton are leading the charge. Albers is nine kills away from 300, her second 300-kill season of her career. Meanwhile, McClinton needs 47 more kills to surpass the 300-kill mark in three of her four seasons.
SULTAN OF SWAT
Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie continues her reign as one of the best blockers in the Big 12, checking in for the second week in a row in the top-three in the league at 1.39 blocks per set, trailing first place Molly McCage (1.41) of Texas by a mere .02 margin. If the season ended today, Soucie’s 1.39 blocking average in 2014 would rank second all-time at Kansas in a single-season.
With the win at Kansas State (11/12), Kansas hopped the Wildcats (No. 18) and Oklahoma (No. 25) in the RPI. Iowa State (No. 15) and Texas (No. 2) are both in front of the Jayhawks – and are the next two teams on the Jayhawks’ schedule.
The Jayhawks chalked up their 10th sweep of the year at Kansas State (11/12), a mark that only Big 12 leader Texas can top with 13 in 2014. A number that Texas can’t beat, however, is both UT and KU have been swept only once this season. In fact, KU has been swept just twice in its last 70 matches (No. 5 Washington, 12/13/13; No. 3 Penn State, 9/13/14).
LAST TIME vs. IOWA STATE
In a night that saw Kansas go ahead by a set, fall behind by a set and finally tie it up at two sets apiece, there were plenty of big performances in KU’s five-set loss at Iowa State (10/22). Freshman middle blocker Kelsie Payne led the Jayhawks with a career-high 13 kills and a match-high .357 attack percentage. She and sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie held down the net with six blocks apiece as KU out-blocked the home team, 13.0-10.0. Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery chalked up a double-double with 12 kills and 10 digs. Fellow veteran, senior Chelsea Albers, put up season-high numbers in digs (21), assists (4) and blocks (5) in addition to her eight kills.
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.
WHAT’S UP, DOCK?
Junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery has hit her stride in Big 12 play. She has double-digit kills in eight of KU’s 12 league contests in 2014, including her first 20-kill performance of the year at Texas Tech (11/8). Dockery’s 2.98 kills per set in conference play ranks second on the team, right behind senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers’ 3.04 average.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
Kansas has endured its share of serving issues, but the Jayhawks have picked up as of late. In 12 conference matches, KU has out-aced its opponent 11 of those times. Kansas ranked last in services aces in 2013, but has moved to fourth in the league overall and fifth in conference-only action this fall. Freshmen Madison Rigdon (0.32) and Ainise Havili (0.28) each rank in the top-10 in the Big 12 in service aces per set, while Havili leads the team with 27 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.
SCOUTING IOWA STATE (15-9, 7-6 Big 12 Conference)
Once an All-American setter for Nebraska, Christy Johnson-Lynch is in her 10th season at the helm of the Iowa State volleyball program. The Big 12 and Volleyball Magazine Coach of the Year in 2009 has led the Cyclones to becoming one of just 15 programs nationally to appear in each of the previous eight NCAA Volleyball Championships. Iowa State opened the season against then-No. 3 Stanford and then-No. 13 Florida State, attempting to challenge the team right away. Since then, the Cyclones have picked up notable wins against Tulsa and at Northern Iowa. In Big 12 play, ISU has two big wins over Oklahoma and another over Kansas. Iowa State enters Wednesday’s match-up as a winner during its previous four contests.
An All-Big 12 Freshman Team member last year, sophomore outside hitter Ciara Capezio returns to set the tone offensively with 3.01 kills per set. That number ranks ninth in the conference and she adds 2.04 digs per set to that count. Senior outside hitter Victoria Hurtt, Kansas City native and two-time All-Big 12 honoree, is right behind her with just four fewer kills on the year and a 2.65 kps average. Sophomore Suzanne Horner transferred in from Mississippi State to set for the Cyclones. She ranks sixth in the Big 12 with 9.85 assists per set.
Junior right side Mackenzie Bigbee, the 2012 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, struck often in the Cyclones’ 3-2 win over TCU on Saturday. Bigbee finished with 14 kills, which was second to only redshirt sophomore Morgan Kuhrt. Kuhrt recorded a double-double for the match (19 kills and a career-high 14 digs). At the net, freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Alexis Conway is the only player on the team hitting above .300 (.330) and blocking more than one ball per set (1.14). Behind her, junior Caitlin Nolan leads the Big 12 with 5.63 digs per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On the Kansas State match being the perfect momentum going into the final four matches:
“I think you can look at the fact that you play well and you want to play again, but at the same time if you’re going to have a break prior to the last four matches, there’s some good to that, too. So we’ll come back and have a couple of days of preparation and hopefully be ready for a huge week with two really good teams.”
On the maturity he saw in his team from the first meeting with K-State to the second one:
“We looked competitively confident. We looked like we matured a little bit as a group and trusted each other a little better. Now it would be really good to see us do that on back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to back matches with us having four left. We’d like to have a good couple of weeks and hopefully position ourselves to have an opportunity to play in December.”
On the home court advantage that both Iowa State and Kansas have:
“Last year we kind of flipped flopped that, but it’s a tough place to play up there because they always have a good team and hopefully we can create a tough environment for them here. Both teams are playing pretty well. They’ve won four in a row, and obviously, have a lot of momentum going. It’s pretty apparent that Texas is going to win the league, but I think spots two through five are up in the air right now. We probably have the toughest schedule left of anybody, but that also allows us to play teams we’re directly trying to influence in the standings. The fact that we’ve got Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia; not only will it impact where we’re going finish in the standings, but obviously develop some competitive confidence as we go through the end of these two weeks and hopefully into December.”
On the continued solid performance of his few upperclassmen:
“We’re going to be playing at a high level if those guys are playing well – (Sara) McClinton, (Chelsea) Albers and Dock (Tiana Dockery) are obviously a big part of that. We feel like (Tayler) Soucie has been around a long time even though it’s been just one year. You kind of throw those four in there, plus Cassie (Wait), I guess you throw those five veterans and just know that they’ve been through it, understand it, and that if they can play at a high level, certainly they’ll create great opportunities for everybody else on our roster to have success.”
Kansas will travel to No. 3 Texas to take on the defending Big 12 Champion Longhorns Saturday, Nov. 22. First serve is scheduled for 3 p.m., and will be televised on the Longhorn Network.
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