Big 12-Best Six Jayhawks Named All-Conference
LAWRENCE, Kan. – One day after receiving the news that they would be a national seed in the 2014 NCAA Volleyball Tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks saw six different players named to the All-Big 12 team. The league office announced the awards Monday afternoon.
Kansas finished the season 22-8 and knocked off Oklahoma in five sets on the last day of the regular season to finish in second place for the second-straight year, tied with the Sooners and Iowa State. In response, the conference awarded a program-record six Jayhawks with league honors – the most of any Big 12 team. Texas, who collected its fourth-straight Big 12 title in 2014, and Oklahoma were next with four honorees apiece.
“Just as our response has been when individual awards come our way throughout the season, it is the same with these,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “We are happy for the individuals that got honored, but we know it’s a reflection of another really, really outstanding year that our team had. We appreciate each of them and we see it every day from everyone on this team. We don’t get to vote for it, but other coaches in the league are seeing what we see on a daily basis.”
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers led the way with her second-straight All-Big 12 First Team selection, while sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie earned a spot on the First Team for the first time. Senior Sara McClinton made her third-consecutive appearance on the All-Big 12 Team, this time with honorable mention recognition. She was joined by junior outside hitter Tiana Dockery and freshman setter Ainise Havili. Havili was also a unanimous selection to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. Fellow rookie Kelsie Payne was also named to the All-Freshman Team.
Albers chalked up 20 kills in the final week of the regular season, putting her career total at 912. Coupled with her 874 digs, Albers is now just the seventh Jayhawk in history to post 900-career kills and 800-career digs. She has led the Jayhawks through the 2014 campaign in kills (334) and kills per set (2.98). Her 296 digs and 91 blocks on the year rank second among her teammates.
Also an offensive threat, Soucie leads the team and ranks third in the Big 12 with her .337 attack percentage. Her claim to fame, however, is at the net as the middle blocker finished the regular season as the Big 12’s blocking leader with 1.47 blocks per set, which ranks ninth nationally.
“Soucie followed up a great freshman year with a really great sophomore year,” Bechard said. “Her blocking numbers are terrific and she really impacts the match with that aspect of her game. Add her efficiency on offense and she has really become an All-Big 12 player. Then, Dockery is just such a force athletically. When she is on, she is nearly impossible to slow down and she showed that time and time again this season.”
All season long, McClinton came up with marquee performances that led her team to big wins. Case in point, she led the Jayhawks with 18 kills in a win against No. 24 Creighton and rattled off a remarkable 18 kills without an error to pull the Jayhawks to a sweep at No. 23 Kansas State. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, McClinton ranks seventh all-time in KU history with 1,257 kills. On Senior Day against Oklahoma, McClinton again churned out 18 kills to push herself over the 300-kill mark for the third-straight season.
“Sara and Chelsea have played at an All-Big 12 level for years now,” Bechard said of his seniors. “I think more than anything, they would rather see their postseason run go a little bit longer, a little bit deeper in years past. I think their career could be much more complete, but to this point they’ve been at a high level for many, many years.”
After being named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team in 2012, Dockery returns to all-conference status with honorable mention recognition in 2014. She finished the Big 12 season with a 2.84 kills per set average in her 14 starts, tying McClinton for the second-most in conference play. Her big time performances in the fall included 15 kills in KU’s win over No. 23 Creighton, 19 kills at Baylor for the first win of the Big 12 season and a double-double in the sweep at No. 23 Kansas State.
The Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Havili came close to earning the same postseason accolade but instead landed on the Big 12 All-Freshman and honorable mention teams. Havili recorded 100 assists in the last two matches of the regular season, adding to her record for all-time for assists by a Jayhawk freshman (1,278). That also moved her into 10th all-time on KU’s single-season assists list. For the season, Havili leads the Big 12 week after week in assists (1,278) and assists per set (11.31). Her 13 double-doubles are the most this season by a Big 12 rookie.
“Ainise Havili has done as much for our team as a freshman as any freshman in the league and maybe in the country,” Bechard said. “We don’t take her for granted, but she plays at such a consistent level each time out. We’re fortunate that she can take a team that had the Big 12 Setter of the Year last year and transition us very smoothly into this year. Obviously, Kelsie Payne has emerged in the last two-thirds of the season. If she doesn’t miss three or four matches, then she would put up some big time numbers, which she still did anyway. The future is in good hands with those two.”
Rounding out the award winners, Payne was selected to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. She led KU with a .371 attack percentage in Big 12 action. In all matches, Payne chalked up a .352 hitting efficiency to finish second in the conference, trailing only UT’s Chiaka Ogubogu (.399). Her 1.03 blocks per set checked in at ninth in the league.
Kansas will host Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday, Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. inside the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kansas. Joining them in the bracket are Creighton and Oregon State. All-session tickets are available on KUAthletics.com.
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