Kansas Takes Streak to No. 3 Texas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Winner of four-straight, including back-to-back top-20 RPI matches, the Kansas volleyball team will look to extend its winning ways in Austin, Texas, the home of Big 12 Champion Texas. First serve is set for 3 p.m. from Gregory Gymnasium.
vs. Texas (UT leads, 36-4): Texas holds a 36-4 all-time record against Kansas in a series that dates back to 1981. At home, the Jayhawks are 3-16 against the perennial power, while the Longhorns hold the lopsided advantage in Austin, 17-1, and are 3-0 against Kansas on a neutral court. UT has been in the nation’s top-10 in the previous 17-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 21-consecutive meetings.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
The KU-UT match will air on the Longhorn Network with Paul Sunderland and Nell Fortner 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. 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 1,009-284.
- Since starting 0-3 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks have gone 8-2 to propel themselves into a tie for second place in the conference standings (Kansas State, Oklahoma).
- 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 2-4 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 13.88 kills per set and 12.90 assists per set. Prior to Saturday, Texas has the league locked down in hitting percentage (.289) and blocks (.305).
- 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. She added a team-high 15 kills against Iowa State (11/19).
- 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 (11.32) and conference-only (11.48) action.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait is moving up KU’s list of most digs in a single season. Entering the week, her 483 digs are tied for fourth-most in a single season at Kansas. Her 4.74 digs per set ranks third in the Big 12.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers started her 100th career match against Iowa State (11/19). She ranks 10th in the Big 12 for points per set (3.49), while 2.66 dig average is the second-highest on the team.
- The Kansas middle blockers are dominating the Big 12 rankings, with three checking in among the top-four attack percentages in the league. Freshmen Kelsie Payne (.362) and Kayla Cheadle (.354) rank second and third, while sophomore Tayler Soucie is fourth (.331). Soucie (1.38, 3rd) and Payne (1.03, 8th) also rank in the top-10 in blocks per set.
Freshman setter Ainise Havili and sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie have been atop the Big 12 rankings in their respective specialties for much of the season, but this week both move into the top-25 nationally. Havili’s 11.32 assists per set leads the Big 12 and ranks 16th in the NCAA. Soucie is third in the conference with 1.38 blocks per set, which is 23rd-best in the country.
CLOSE THE DOOR
Iowa State came to Lawrence (11/19) on a four-match win streak, including back-to-back five-set wins. With the Cyclones being 4-2 in five-set matches this season – and the Jayhawks 0-5 – going five sets wasn’t something KU was keen on. ISU cut the Kansas lead to 17-15 before the Jayhawks erased all chances of a fifth set by finishing the night on an 8-0 run.
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers started her 100th career match against Iowa State (11/19). In her illustrious career, Albers has recorded 876 career kills and 847 career digs. She is now just the 11th Jayhawk to hit the 800-kill/800-dig mark in their careers. The last time a Kansas outside hitter (or a right-side, in both of their cases) tallied 800-career digs was Emily Brown, who eclipsed the mark in 2007. If she can hit 900/900, that would make her just the seventh Jayhawk all-time to do so.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
Kansas has endured its share of serving issues, but the Jayhawks have picked up as of late. In 13 conference matches, KU has out-aced its opponent in all but one of those contests. Kansas ranked last in services aces in 2013, but has moved to fourth in the league overall (1.13). Five different Jayhawks have double-digit aces this season. 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 28 aces for the season. In addition, sophomore libero Cassie Wait is on point from the line. She only has nine aces, but she has made 94 percent of her serves in 2014.
Freshman setter Ainise Havili is 39 assists away from the KU freshman assists record. After 51 assists against Iowa State (11/19), Havili sits at 1,155 for the season, right behind Katie Martincich (1,193; 2006) for the Jayhawk rookie record. Her 13 double-doubles are the most in the Big 12 by a freshman and are just one shy of breaking into KU’s top-10 list for most double-doubles in a season.
Senior Sara McClinton, a two-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree, was selected to the All-Academic First Team for the third-straight year, which equates to every year she has been eligible, as freshmen do not qualify. Fellow senior Chelsea Albers also chalked up her third-straight Academic All-Big 12 honor. Sophomores Tayler Soucie and Cassie Wait became eligible this season – and both joined McClinton on the First Team. Albers and sophomore setter Maggie Anderson earned spots on the Academic All-Big 12 Second Team.
SIGN ME UP
A year ago, head coach Ray Bechard and his staff were diligently working on replacing an abnormally-large senior class with a nationally-ranked group of freshmen. While the number is significantly smaller this time around, Kansas volleyball will still welcome a high-powered class as Patricia Montero (Ponce, Puerto Rico) and Ashley Smith (Las Vegas, Nevada) signed National Letters of Intent to join the Jayhawks in 2015.
A member of the Puerto Rican national team, Montero was named the U16 Power League West Coast MVP in 2012 and went on to claim MVP honors again at the U17 Angel Matos Cup in 2013. She was also named to the U17 Power League East Coast All-Star Team in 2013. Smith has been a standout player from day one at Shadow Ridge High School, earning three-straight years of Sunset Division First Team honors in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons. Smith also added a Conference MVP to her resume in 2014.
Kansas chalked up its 20th win of the season against Iowa State (11/19), the third-straight year that KU has hit the 20-win mark (26-17, 2012; 25-8, 2013). The three-year streak is a first for Jayhawk volleyball since the 1980-1981-1982 seasons.
LAST TIME vs. TEXAS
Vying to knock off the Longhorns for the first time since 2003, the Jayhawks kicked into gear in the third set but not in time to shake off the two-set deficit already stacked against them. The No. 2 Texas Longhorns entered a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center and defeated Kansas in four sets, 14-25, 20-25, 25-20, 21-25. Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers lead the Jayhawks in kills (17) and paced the Jayhawks in sets two and three with 11 kills on 19 swings. She was joined by junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery‘s 12 kills.
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 two kills away from 300, her second 300-kill season of her career. Meanwhile, McClinton needs 32 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 1.38 blocks per set, trailing first place Molly McCage (1.40) of Texas by a mere .02 margin. If the season ended today, Soucie’s 1.38 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. When the next RPI gets released, KU (No. 15) now has a win against Iowa State (No. 15) to its credit and Texas (No. 2) is next up.
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 71 matches (No. 5 Washington, 12/13/13; No. 3 Penn State, 9/13/14).
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.
SCOUTING NO. 3 TEXAS (21-1, 13-1 BIG 12 CONFERENCE)
Led by 14-year head coach Jerritt Elliott, Texas already has the 2014 Big 12 title in tow. That marks the Longhorns’ fourth-straight Big 12 regular season title, their fifth in six years and 21st all-time conference title. Texas was nearly a unanimous pick to win the Big 12, receiving eight of the possible nine first-place votes – Kansas receiving the ninth and final vote. Texas finished the non-conference season with a perfect 8-0 record, with marquee wins on the road at No. 5 Nebraska and No. 11 Florida. UT’s lone loss of the season was a rare loss at home at the hands of Oklahoma, snapping a 34-match home winning streak and a 53-match Big 12 home winning streak.
Senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman leads the charge for the Longhorns, to be expected for the defending back-to-back Big 12 Player of the Year. Eckerman currently leads the team in kills (225) and aces (32) on the season. The two-time AVCA First-Team All-American starts a long list of All-American players on the roster, including junior middle blocker Molly McCage (.321 attack percentage, 1.39 blocks per set) and sophomore middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu (Big 12-best .412 attack percentage, 1.26 blocks per set). Those two were also the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Seniors Khat Bell and Eckerman are the first Longhorns in program history to collect four-straight Big 12 titles.
Sophomore setter Chloe Collins is averaging 5.75 assists per set, getting assistance from sophomore Nicole Dalton’s 5.16 average. Freshman libero Cat McCoy sets the tone in the back row with 3.82 digs per set. As a team, the Longhorns lead the Big 12’s attack percentage by 20 points (.289) and are the only team blocking more than three balls per set (3.05).
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On his team being loose and just playing:
“I think the last two matches in particular have seen them gain more and more competitive confidence, going on the road to be a really good team and then come right back after a week layoff and be able to focus and finish a four-set win.”
On going 8-2 in conference play after the 0-3 start:
“I don’t think there was ever panic, but there is certainly concern any time you start 0-3 in a league race. Our schedule was kind of front-loaded and back-loaded to a certain extent. We definitely needed to make some headway in the middle half of our schedule and with one exception, we’ve done that. With two of the last three at home and a pretty daunting road test still ahead, I think the last seven days of the regular season will allow us to grow even more as a team.”
On the defensive effort against Iowa State:
“We out-dug the team that had more digs per set than any team in the conference. If you really want to try and take the spirit of the fight out of somebody, then do what they do – but do it better. Our first contact was good, our serving was good again but the digging numbers were terrific. For (Cassie) Wait, (Ainise) Havili and (Chelsea) Albers to out-dig them the way they did, I thought that was an important stat for us.”
On the depth of the middle blockers:
“I’m really proud of Janae Hall and the minutes she gave us while (Kelsie) Payne was out. I’m proud of (Kayla) Cheadle, who really got us out to a good start. They’ve all had their moments. Through it all, obviously, (Tayler) Soucie has been pretty steady for us. Then the reemergence of Payne, to come off of a layoff and get four blocks and 13 kills against Iowa State is good. Everyone is going to have an ebb-and-flow with injuries and how can you sustain a certain level of play when that happens is key. They are a very valuable group, all of which have contributed to our success.”
On peaking at the right time and this being a good time to play Texas:
“Yeah, if there ever is a good time to go play Texas (laughs). We’ve got a little momentum and you create that momentum each time you go out. You’ve got to establish that each time. When we go down there a whole different level of volleyball is required. It requires a pretty consistent level of play throughout, but we’re looking forward to it.”
On the job Texas head coach Jerritt Elliot has done with four-straight Big 12 titles:
“It’s pretty amazing, (Texas) has won five of the last six conference titles. I think that also speaks pretty highly to the job our basketball coach has done here (Bill Self, 10-straight conference titles). He has set a standard for the league and that’s good. Now, the league is trying to catch Texas and it’s created an urgency for all of us to get better. For him to be at the level he’s at, everybody else wants to be competitive with him and his program.”
Kansas will return home for the final week of the regular season when the Jayhawks will play host to West Virginia on Wednesday, Nov. 26. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
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