No. 9 Kansas Nets Six Big 12 Postseason Honors
IRVING, Texas – No. 9 Kansas Volleyball paired an unprecedented regular-season with six Big 12 postseason honors, including Ray Bechard as Big 12 Coach of the Year and Ainise Havili as Big 12 Setter of the Year, the Conference announced on Tuesday.
Three Jayhawks were named to All-Big 12 First Team – Havili, sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, and junior middle blocker Tayler Soucie. Sophomore outside hitter Madison Rigdon was named All-Big 12 Second Team. Havili and Payne are two of seven unanimous first-team selections.
Havili is the second Jayhawk to win the Setter of the Year honor with Bechard collecting Coach of the Year for the third time in the last four years.
Havili’s 12.33 assists per set topped the league in Big 12-only matches, while her 12.36 average in overall matches ranked second nationally to close out the regular season. Havili recorded 16 matches this season with 40 or more assists, including four with 50-plus. The Fort Worth, Texas, native was a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week and was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team last season.
Bechard, in his 18th year at KU, led the Jayhawks to their most storied regular season as KU concluded 2015 with a 26-2 overall mark and 14-2 Big 12 finish. The Jayhawks’ .929 winning percentage and 19-0 start are the best in program history. Kansas ended the regular season with a program-record .312 hitting percentage, which ranks fourth nationally, and a program-record 15.4 kills per set, which ranks second nationally. The Jayhawks have been ranked in the top 10 for eight-straight weeks with an NCAA RPI in the top 10 all season. Bechard reached 300 wins this season and takes 320 victories into KU’s postseason, where the Jayhawks have a No. 9 national seed.
Payne enters postseason play as the Big 12’s leader in kills per set (4.32). The four-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week is the only player in the country to rank top-50 in both hitting percentage (32nd) and kills per set (26th). A native of Austin, Texas, Payne ended the regular-season with five 20-kill performances in the last eight matches.
Soucie recorded 100 blocks for third consecutive season, moving up to sixth on KU’s career blocks list as a junior (373). The Osawatomie native is one of just five Big 12 players to repeat as a first-team selection this season. Soucie has nine matches with five or more blocks and ranks fourth in the Big 12 in blocks per set (1.2).
Rigdon, a first-year starter for the Jayhawks, garners her first Big 12 postseason honor after averaging a balanced 2.9 kills per set, 2.1 digs per set, and 0.3 aces per set. The Pflugerville, Texas, native was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 5.
Amy Neal (Texas) was named Big 12 Player of the Year, while Iowa State’s Caitlin Nolan and Jess Schaben were named Big 12 Libero of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year, respectively.
Kansas faces Furman in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship on Thursday (6:30 p.m., ESPN3) at Horejsi Family Athletics Center in Lawrence.
KU’s BIG 12 SETTERS OF THE YEAR
Erin McNorton – 2013
Ainise Havili – 2015
KU’s CONFERENCE COACHES OF THE YEAR
Frankie Albitz – 1991 (Big Eight)
Ray Bechard – 2012, 2013, 2015
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