Senior Day: Kansas Hosts Oklahoma for Second-Place Rights
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Four years ago, Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton began a reign that will see them leave with more career wins than any other senior class in the Ray Bechard era – and they aren’t finished yet. Kansas and Oklahoma will square off with rights to second-place on the line on Senior Day, Saturday at noon inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
AROUND THE GYM
- Sold-Out: The Kansas-Oklahoma match is KU’s seventh sell-out of the season.
- Bobblehead Jay: The first 500 fans through the door will receive a commemorative Jayhawk bobblehead.
- Senior Day: Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton will be recognized prior to the match and will give their senior speeches following the contest.
vs. Oklahoma (OU leads, 47-32): An evenly-matched series, Kansas holds the series advantage since the formation of the Big 12 but Oklahoma holds the overall lead in the series that dates back to 1976. The Jayhawks are looking to avenge losing to OU on the Sooners’ Senior Day, which also occurred on the last day of the regular season a year ago.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
The KU-OU 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 1,010-285.
- Since starting 0-3 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks have won nine of their last 12 conference contests. If Kansas can defeat Oklahoma, the two could tie in what could potentially be a massive tie for second place.
- Kansas jumped up to No. 14 in the latest NCAA RPI projections (11/24). 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 2-5 vs. top-25 RPI teams, 1-6 vs. top-50 and 11-7 vs. top-100 (at match time).
- The Jayhawk offense leads the Big 12 with 13.92 kills per set. Only Big 12 champion Texas (.142) holds opponents to a lower attack percentage than KU (.167) does.
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili continues her reign of leading the Big 12. The Fort Worth native sets the tone in the league with her 1,225 assists and 11.34 assists per set, which ranks 17th in the NCAA.
- Sophomore libero Cassie Wait became the third Jayhawk in program history to surpass 500 digs in a season (Brianne Riley twice, Catalina Suarez). Her 512 4.74 dig average ranks third all-time in a KU single season.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers chalked up seven kills, putting her career total at 899 going into Senior Day. Coupled with her 865 digs, if Albers collects just one kill on Saturday she will be the seventh Jayhawk in history to post 900-career kills and 800-career digs.
- 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 (.368) and Kayla Cheadle (.354) rank second and third, while sophomore Tayler Soucie is fourth (.340). Soucie (1.40, 3rd) and Payne (1.01, 9th) also rank in the top-10 in blocks per set.
THANK YOU SENIORS
The senior class of 2014 consists of just two players, but the duo has been impactful since setting foot on campus. Four-year starters, Albers and McClinton have led KU to what is likely to be three-straight NCAA Tournaments. Together, they have acquired 2,138 combined kills and an 87-36 career record – the most wins by any senior class in Ray Bechard’s 17 years.
- 1,239 career kills (7th in KU history)
- Second-most career kills among active Big 12 players
- 2.92 career kills per set (10th in KU history)
- Two 300-kill seasons
- Two-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree
- AVCA All-America Honorable Mention
- 11th Jayhawk in history to record 800 kills/800 digs in her career
- One more career kill will make her the seventh Jayhawk in history to record 900 kills/800 digs in her career
- Two 300-kill seasons
- All-Big 12 First Team honoree
- AVCA All-America Honorable Mention
SENIOR DAY SUCCESS
In head coach Ray Bechard’s 17 seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks have accumulated a 10-6 record on Senior Day and have won six of their last seven.
With back-to-back top-20 RPI wins at Kansas State (11/12) and against Iowa State (11/19), Kansas jumped to No. 14 in the RPI – its best positioning of the season. Last year, the Jayhawks were No. 12 in the RPI going into the final week of the regular season.
HOW SWEEP IT IS
Kansas swept West Virginia (11/26) for its 10th 3-0 victory of the season, a solid response to being swept at Texas in the previous outing. The sweep was rare in itself as KU has been swept just three times in its last 74 matches – all of which were against top-five opponents (No. 5 Washington 12/13/13, No. 3 Penn State 9/13/14, No. 3 Texas 11/22/14).
SECOND IN SIGHT
After being voted to finish second in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll, the highest selection in KU’s history, the Jayhawks were hit with a brutal 0-3 start to conference play. Sitting in last place and the only team in the league without a win, KU has since gone on a tear – winning nine of its last 12 matches – and still have a solid chance at finishing second. Since Oklahoma (10-5) defeated Kansas State (9-6) on Wednesday, and Kansas (9-6) defeated West Virginia, then if KU defeats OU on Saturday, KSU beats WVU and Iowa State (9-6) downs Baylor – All four teams would finish the season tied for second place.
KANSAS vs. CONFERENCE KINGS
Kansas played seven teams that were picked to win their respective conferences in 2014: Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun), Creighton (BIG EAST), Denver (The Summit League), Yale (Ivy League), American (Patriot League), Penn State (Big Ten) and Texas (Big 12). So far, Denver, Yale and American have each officially punched their ticket to the 2014 NCAA Tournament by winning their conference tournaments.
LAST TIME vs. OKLAHOMA
What started as a Kansas highlight reel ended much differently when Oklahoma came back from an 0-2 deficit to down the 23rd-ranked Jayhawks in five sets (9/27). After handily claiming sets one and two, KU opened the Big 12 Conference season inside McCasland Fieldhouse with a loss, 25-19, 25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 9-15. After KU sprinted out to a 2-0 lead, Oklahoma hit .375 and .481 in sets three and four to force a decisive fifth frame. Completely robbing the Jayhawks of their momentum, the Sooners finished it off with a suffocating .545 attack percentage in set five to claim the win. A year ago, it was Oklahoma that hosted Kansas on its Senior Day – which OU won in four sets.
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 11.34 assists per set leads the Big 12 and ranks 17th in the NCAA. Soucie is third in the conference with 1.40 blocks per set, which ranks 20th in the country.
SCOUTING OKLAHOMA (20-9, 10-5 Big 12 Conference)
In his 11th season at the helm, head coach Santiago Restrepo has made the Oklahoma volleyball program a constant contender in the Big 12. The Sooners have reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last five seasons and posted five consecutive seasons with 20-plus wins with a 20-9 mark in 2014 and a 24-8 campaign in 2013 that ended in the NCAA Second Round. The Sooners were voted to finish fourth in the Big 12 preseason poll, but could finish in sole possession of second place if they defeat the Jayhawks on Saturday.
Oklahoma is receiving votes in the AVCA Top-25 Coaches Poll, right behind Kansas. OU played a high-caliber non-conference schedule, including matches on the road at No. 10 Florida and No. 13 North Carolina. Once conference play began with a win against No. 23 Kansas, the Sooners won five of their first six conference matches – they are also the only team in the country to beat No. 3 Texas this season. In fact, they pulled off the feat 3-0 in Austin.
OU’s blocking presence isn’t quite as strong with the graduation of two-time All-American Sallie McLaurin. The Sooners rank last in the league in blocking (1.90), but lead the Big 12 in service aces (1.40). Junior outside hitter Kierra Holst leads the Big 12 with her 0.48 ace average. Holst also leads the team with 423 kills and 3.78 kills per set. Freshman middle blocker Marion Hazelwood leads the team in attack percentage (.311) and blocks per set (0.92). Distributing the offense, junior setter Julia Doyle puts up 10.69 assists and 0.54 blocks per frame.
FROM THE SENIORS – CHELSEA ALBERS
On the impact Kansas volleyball has had on her:
“Throughout my volleyball career, I’ve never had a team like the teams I’ve had these past four years. They have become such a family to me. In that aspect, I’ve pushed myself to work harder to work for each other. I’ve never put myself first. I always wanted to work for my teammates, my coaches, for Kansas Athletics. That’s the first time in my career that I can finally say that it’s better to want something so bad, not only for myself but for my family.”
On the impact that she has had on Kansas volleyball:
“Coming in four years ago, we came in knowing the potential of the program and what the expectations were. For me and Sara (McClinton) to come in be able to be a part of that as freshmen, that really helped us. We’ve had great teammates, we’ve had great coaches and we’ve had a lot of people who have had an impact on us – so trying to give that back and help this program has been awesome. I’m glad we’ve been able to push it forward and make it more of a dynasty now, more of an expectation for us to flourish rather than be at the bottom.”
On how playing college athletics has changed her life:
“I’ve never seen myself being able to hold ties or being able to feel like I am, at any moment of the day, doing something so difficult that most people say you’re going to have to love it so much to go through college athletics. I’m with my best friends every single day. I’m with people on the court that I’d do anything for. That’s shaped my life immensely. We have moments like making the Sweet 16, that moment was the most unbelievable thing. We even have moments on the court where we can’t stop laughing because I bombed the ball 400 yards out of bounds two years ago. It’s just little things that I won’t ever forget that made this such an amazing experience for me.”
On becoming the seventh Jayhawk all-time to post 900 kills/800 digs in her career:
“I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to play six rotations. I don’t think a lot of players, or right sides in general, get that opportunity. The coaches have been very influential in helping me get to that point. I’ve had players help me out whenever I had questions. I’m glad I was able to help the team in more than a couple aspects. I tried to improve my game and I can see that. I hope that a lot of other people can see that from my freshman year to this point now. I’ve worked myself from not only a blocker and hitter, to someone that can guide on the court in any aspect of the game. That’s something I’ve worked hard for, but I’ve also had a lot of help.”
On what it means to represent Kansas:
“Putting on a Kansas jersey – I can’t even put words to it. It’s goosebumps just seeing it hanging in your locker. It’s very much an honor and it’s going to be sad when I can’t do that anymore. To see it in a frame won’t be the same as having it on my shoulders. These last opportunities I’m going to hold to the highest standard. To play for the University of Kansas was the best decision and the best thing that’s ever been placed in my life.”
FROM THE SENIORS – SARA McCLINTON
On the success she has experienced at Kansas:
“I couldn’t have done it without Chelsea (Albers). We’ve always been on the same page about everything. We knew we wanted to come in and just be competitive and make a different culture in the gym. We wanted to be able to leave that as a lasting legacy. We wanted people that were younger than us to learn from us and continue the culture.”
On being seventh all-time on the Kansas career kills list:
“I definitely wanted to leave my mark on Kansas volleyball. That wasn’t the way I expected to, but I’m glad I left my thumbprint on the University. Hopefully I’ll be remembered, maybe through kills, but maybe through something better than stats – like I was nice or something.”
On the seniors’ 87-36 career record:
“It’s definitely good to have a winning career record. We’ve experienced every match, the highs and the lows. It’s nice to come out on top of that.”
On what will likely be three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances:
“Our goal was to go to the NCAA Tournament every year while we were here. We didn’t make it our freshman year, but as we gained momentum and came into our own as players, we were able to have a little more influence on the team. It took a lot of pieces and a lot of people, but it was building that competitive atmosphere that got us to the NCAA Tournament year after year.”
On choosing the University of Kansas:
“Since I was such a late commit, I didn’t know a lot about the University or the volleyball program. You have the little bit of fear, the ‘did I make the right decision?’ question. I can honestly say that I know I made the right decision. Even if I wasn’t on the volleyball team, I would’ve loved to attend this University as just a student. I feel privileged to be a part of this team.”
On representing KU:
“These last two summers that I’ve traveled, I realized that it’s more than just going out and playing the game. You are representing your University and that was crazy to realize. The Kansas Jayhawks are nationwide and global – I found people in China that were Jayhawk fans. I take a lot of pride in being able to represent this University.”
Kansas will await its NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday, Nov. 30 when the Selection Show airs on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. CT.
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