No. 21 Kansas Prepares for Big Finale at Oklahoma
LAWRENCE, Kan. – One more victory would hand the 21st-ranked Kansas volleyball a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference – the highest in program history. Standing in the way is a top-25 RPI Oklahoma squad on its Senior Day as the two are set to square off Saturday inside McCasland Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.
vs. Oklahoma (OU leads, 45-32): Although Oklahoma had a firm grip on the series that dates back to 1975, the Jayhawks have swung the momentum in their favor with three-straight wins against the Sooners. In 2012, KU swept the season series for the first time since 2005, including a come-from-behind five-set victory in Norman (10/9/12). In their most recent meeting, Kansas claimed a convincing 3-0 victory in Lawrence (10/9/13), out-hitting the visiting Sooners, .347 to .190.
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.
The match will be streamed on SoonerSports.tv for a subscription fee. Fans can also monitor the action on Live Stats or by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
- Kansas is on a mission to do what no Jayhawk volleyball team has – finish second in the Big 12 Conference. Iowa State lost to Texas on Wednesday, meaning the Jayhawks have at least a share of second place in the Big 12 standings, but a win at Oklahoma would hand the Jayhawks second place outright.
- KU ended the 2003 season with 13 wins in conference play but also tallied seven losses. Meaning a win on Saturday could propel the 2013 squad to a 13-3 record with an .813 winning percentage – KU’s best in either Big Eight or Big 12 history.
- KU played in front of nearly 4,000 fans on Tuesday when the program hosted a Fan Appreciation Night against Denver inside Allen Fieldhouse.
- The Jayhawks are well on their way to their first back-to-back 1,600-kill seasons for the first time since 2004 and 2005. Seven more at Oklahoma would do it.
- For the fifth-straight week, KU has moved up in the AVCA Top-25 Poll. This week Kansas is ranked No. 21 (11/25), marking the seventh week Kansas has been on the national poll this season.
- Kansas moved to No. 12 in the RPI this week (11/25), down one from No. 11 last week. With Oklahoma at No. 23 in the RPI, Saturday will be KU’s ninth match against a top-25 RPI team. KU is 4-4 in such contests.
- Senior setter Erin McNorton leads the Big 12 for the 13th-straight week with 12.13 assists per set. The Dallas native is the fourth-best setter in the NCAA.
- Kansas ranks in the top-25 in the NCAA in kills (14.48, 13th NCAA), assists (13.56, 14th NCAA) and hitting percentage (.263, 24th NCAA). Additionally, KU’s 2.65 blocks per set is 38th-best in the country. (NCAA Stats Released: 11/28)
While Kansas does qualify on the AVCA “Watch List” for NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds (Dec. 6-7) host sites, head coach Ray Bechard changed venues against Denver (11/26) to extend the opportunity to thank fans through a free admission match. Jayhawk Nation came through as Tuesday’s attendance was reported at 3,926 – the seventh-largest home crowd all-time to watch a Kansas volleyball match.
Facing Denver (11/26), Kansas came out slow – hitting just .100 and .128 in the first and second sets, respectively. The Jayhawks righted the ship in a big way in the third and fourth sets, cranking out a .355 efficiency in the third and .406 in the fourth. Picking up steam is a habit for the Jayhawks. In fact, the Jayhawks have hit under .200 in the first and second sets 20 times, but have hit that low in the third, fourth and fifth sets just 16 times total. Following the break, KU has posted an attack efficiency above. 200 in 38 different sets – including 19 times hitting .400 or better.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc led Kansas with 15 kills and a .462 attack percentage against Denver (11/26). She also added five blocks to bring her all-time Kansas leading total to 545. It comes as no surprise that Jarmoc is now the only Jayhawk in program history to post 100 or more blocks in all four years of her career.
RUNNING OUT OF RECORDS
Senior libero Brianne Riley has owned the Kansas career digs record since the end of the 2012 regular season and broke the single-season dig mark the match prior to that. Well on her way to becoming the first Jayhawk to reach 2,000-career digs, Riley is also just 16 digs away from being the only player in the program to post 500 or more digs in back-to-back years. In fact, prior to Riley, only one Jayhawk had posted back-to-back 400-dig efforts (Jill Dorsey: 2003, 2004).
GET TO THE POINT
With her first kill against Denver (11/26), junior outside hitter Sara McClinton chalked up her 1,000th-career point. She joins teammate, redshirt freshman Caroline Jarmoc, as the only other active Jayhawk in the 1,000-point club. McClinton will have to race to catch her, however, as Jarmoc currently sits second all-time in the Kansas record books (1,715.5).
One regular season match still left on the schedule, Kansas’ .263 attack percentage is in prime position to beat the current program record (.246, 2003). The Jayhawks rank second in the Big 12 Conference behind defending national champion and current No. 1 Texas (.291).
JARMOC vs. McLAURIN
Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc has squared off against many prominent Big 12 middles for the last time throughout the 2013 campaign. Saturday will mark the last matchup between herself and OU All-American middle Sallie McLaurin. Both have been phenomenal throughout their careers and currently each ranks in the league’s top-10 in hitting percentage, kills per set, blocks per set and points per set. In fact, McLaurin leads the Big 12 in each of those categories, minus kills per set. McLaurin has 1,309 career kills and 612 career blocks to her credit, while Jarmoc sits at 1,290 career kills and 545 career blocks.
HOW SWEEP IT IS
Since conference play began, Kansas has racked up six three-set wins, including its most recent against Texas Tech (11/23). This season, KU has accumulated 11 sweeps – second only to Iowa State (12) and tied with Texas and Oklahoma. More impressively, the Jayhawks are the only team in the Big 12 that has not been swept this season and haven’t been since Oct. 12, 2012 (at No. 9 Texas) – a span of 42 matches.
Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie now holds the Kansas record for the most blocks by a Jayhawk in a debut season (121). Soucie passed current teammate and mentor, redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc (115), to obtain the record.
Senior setter Erin McNorton racked up 50 assists in her latest outing against Denver (11/26). While she may not reach her 1,443 assist mark that landed her third all-time on KU’s single-season record list in 2012, the Dallas native jumped from ninth to fourth on KU’s single-season record list during the Denver match. She currently sits at 1,334 for the year.
Meanwhile, fellow senior Caroline Jarmoc is doing the same on KU’s kills leaderboard. She jumped up to fourth all-time on the Jayhawks’ career kills list with 15 kills against Denver to bring her career total to 1,290. Twenty kills by season’s end would propel her all the way to second (Karina Garlington, 1,309, 2007-10).
Junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers led the Jayhawks with six blocks against Denver (11/26), giving her the first 200-kill/200-dig/100-block season of her career with 290 kills, 258 digs and 104 blocks. Albers is the first KU player to accomplish such a feat since Emily Brown recorded the same in 2004 (231K, 264 digs, 113 total blocks).
THE RACE IS ON
With one regular season match remaining and postseason play a likely possibility, seniors Erin McNorton and Brianne Riley are racing to two very important milestones. McNorton is 94 assists away from 3,000 for her career, while Riley needs only 18 digs for the 2,000th of her career. The numbers seem lopsided, but in 2013 McNorton has averaged roughly 46 assists per contest, while Riley has come up with 17 digs per match. Only six liberos in Big 12 history have surpassed the 2,000-dig barrier.
ON YOUR MARK, GET SET
Kansas leads the conference with 77 set victories in 2013 and has the second-fewest set losses (33). Only Texas (22) has lost fewer sets this year.
Senior setter Erin McNorton (1,334) leads all Big 12 setters by at least 185 assists – and has amassed more assists than six Big 12 squads have chalked up as a team. McNorton is the sixth player in KU history to collect 2,900 assists (2,906), despite the fact that she has started only 62 matches in her career.
Redshirt senior All-American Caroline Jarmoc earned one of the final 10 candidate spots to be considered for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate volleyball. The prestigious award selects senior student-athletes based on the following categories: community, classroom, character and competition. Jarmoc, the first All-American in KU volleyball history, broke the Kansas blocking record this year and ranks second in the Big 12 in blocking, all while holding down a 3.24 GPA in chemical engineering. She joins Texas’ Bailey Webster as the only Big 12 representatives on the prestigious list. Fans can vote until Dec. 9 at SeniorClassAward.com.
The American Volleyball Coaches Association named Kansas to the AVCA “watch list” as a potential host for the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Championship Tournament. Kansas currently meets all three of the criteria needed to be considered:
- Teams that are in the AVCA Top 25 poll as of October 28, 2013. (KU: 21)
- Teams that are in the top 25 of the Pablo Rankings as of October 28, 2013. (KU: 19)
- Teams that are in the top 25 of the RPI Rankings as of October 28, 2013. (KU: 12)
SCOUTING OKLAHOMA (22-7 Overall, 10-5 Big 12)
Led by Santiago Restrepo in his 10th season as head coach, Oklahoma was voted to finish fifth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, but can do no worse than fourth as the conclusion of the regular season approaches. The Sooners posted a strong non-conference showing, picking up wins over Arkansas, No. 25 BYU and Tulsa. Oklahoma turned around a three-match losing streak against No. 1 Texas, Kansas State and No. 25 Iowa State before rattling off a four-match win streak heading into its Senior Day match with Kansas.
Senior middle blocker Sallie McLaurin, has had the Big 12 hitting percentage leaderboard on lockdown for the majority of the season. The two-time All-American currently leads the league by at .426 and also leads her fellow conference attackers with 396 kills. Her 139 total blocks are a Big 12 best, with KU’s Caroline Jarmoc right behind her with 134. Heading into the weekend, McLaurin leads the Big 12 in hitting percentage (.426), blocks per set (1.32) and points per set (4.66). In their latest outing, McLaurin led the Sooners with 19 kills and a .400 attack percentage – the 20th time in 29 matches that she has hit .400 or better. Sophomore middle Kierra Holst also is sent to McLaurin with 2.97 kills per set, while veteran senior outside hitter Keila Rodriguez does it all. She averages 2.40 kills per set and is second only to libero Taylor Migliazzo with her 3.28 digs per set.
As a unit, Oklahoma is hitting for a .244 accuracy on 12.09 assists per set. The Sooners are digging up 16.52 balls per frame, good for second in the Big 12.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On the importance of the match against Oklahoma:
“We want to be playing well at the end of the year and here’s a good opportunity to play a really good team on the road, which I think is a great transition into the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, we are going to see this level of opponent as we move into the NCAA tournament. We are excited about our trip to Norman, we have a lot of respect for their team and their staff. Over the last few years we’ve had some really competitive, well-played high level matches against them.”
On traveling to Norman to face Oklahoma on Senior Day:
“Obviously, we’ll have to match their energy and emotion, but it’ll be a different level. This has been an interesting nine or 10-day stretch for us. Going from K-State into Iowa State into Senior Day to a quick turnaround for Tuesday. I like the fact that we played on Tuesday, it gives a little time to regroup, recover, reenergize and get ready. You’ve got kids like Sallie McLaurin and [Keila] Rodriguez who are seniors. They’ve got quality kids who I know will want to go out in a big way so I think it’ll be one of the best matches of the year for us.”
On nearly 4,000 people attending the Denver match:
“After they did the alma mater we huddled and we kind of looked up and we said, ‘Wow there’s a lot of people here,’ and they said, ‘Yeah, Coach there’s a lot of people here, are you just now noticing this?’ Sometimes you get a little bit too involved in the match. We are so appreciative of the connection this team has made with the Jayhawk fans. I think it was a great opportunity for families to get out there and, hopefully there were a lot of young girls in the stands that thought that our team was made up of pretty cool role models. We didn’t play our best, but we did play well when we needed to, overall I think you would have to consider the night a big success for how it all played out.”
On the team’s focus on Oklahoma not looking ahead to Selection Sunday:
“I think we want to be second in the Big 12 and we can do that with a win at Oklahoma and that’ll be a first for our program’s history. That’s what we challenged this team to do this year – try to find a way to create their own little niche. After all of the things that went down last year, that’s a little bit of a challenge this year. Two of the main things that we talked about is a higher Big 12 finish and a deeper run in the NCAA tournament and here we are with one match left and both of those things are still right in front of us so that’s pretty exciting.”
Kansas will learn its postseason fate on Sunday, Dec. 1 when the NCAA Selection Show airs on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m. CT.
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