NCAA Tournament: Kansas Practices in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. – Only one day remains before the 16th-seeded Kansas volleyball team plays host to Arkansas-Little Rock in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. On Thursday, the Jayhawks held their open practice and familiarized themselves with their temporary home away from home, the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.
Head coach Ray Bechard calling the shots.With ESPN in Lawrence to broadcast the nationally-ranked men’s basketball matchup between Kansas and Florida inside Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 5, combined with the Kansas volleyball team also being awarded hosting rights to the NCAA Tournament – Kansas Athletics had to find a way to handle both events simultaneously. Thanks to the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kansas, the basketball team and ESPN can stay in Allen Fieldhouse – what has also served as the volleyball’s NCAA hosting site for the last two seasons – while the volleyball team still gets homecourt advantage.
“It’s Horejsi West,” head coach Ray Bechard smiled. “There’s a different feel to the building. It’s not as intimate (as the Horejsi Family Athletics Center), but the court’s the same size and the net’s the same height. We’ll have to play well, just like we would have to if we played anywhere else in the NCAA Tournament. I’m really proud of the way our administration rallied when they knew there was going to be a scheduling conflict. The more you think about just the opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament and what a privilege that is and not worry about the where and when, you’ll keep your mind in the right place. It’s a privilege to represent our athletic department and our University.”
All Session – Reserved: $12
All Session – General Admission: $10
All Session – Youth (3-17): $5
All Session – KU Students: FREE
Day of Match:
Single Session – Reserved: $7
Single Session – General Admission: $6
All Session – Youth (3-17): $5
Single Session – KU Students: FREE
**Children 2 and under are free
NCAA First & Second Round Schedule (Topeka, Kansas)
Match 1: Friday, Dec. 5, 4 p.m.: (2) Creighton vs. (3) Oregon State
Match 2: Friday, Dec. 5, 6:30 p.m.: (4) Arkansas-Little Rock vs. (1) Kansas
Match 3: Saturday, Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m.: Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner
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 NCAA Tournament with a career mark of 1,011-285.
- Kansas is hosting the NCAA First and Second Rounds for the third-straight season. For the first time, however, it will not be in Lawrence. Due to the Kansas vs. Florida men’s basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 5, KU volleyball is taking up residence at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kansas.
- Since starting 0-3 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks won 10 of their last 13 conference contests to finish the season tied for second place in the Big 12. That marks the second-straight second-place finish for the Jayhawks.
- Kansas jumped up to No. 11 in the latest NCAA RPI projections (11/30). That means KU has been outside of the RPI’s top-20 just three weeks in the last three years.
- In all, KU played 10 teams that received an NCAA Tournament berth in 2014 and the Jayhawks went 7-7 against them.
- In the Big 12, he Jayhawk offense finished the regular season ranked second in kills per set (13.84), assists per set (12.85) and overall winning percentage (22-8, .733).
- Freshman setter Ainise Havili continues her reign of leading the Big 12. The Fort Worth native set the tone in the league with her 1,278 assists and 11.31 assists per set, both of which rank first in the conference and 18th in the NCAA.
- Sophomore middle blocker Tayler Soucie completed the regular season as the conference’s blocking leader. Her 1.47 blocks per set rank ninth 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 534 digs and 4.74 dig average rank third all-time in a KU single season.
- Senior outside hitter Chelsea Albers became just the seventh Jayhawk in history to post 900-career kills and 800-career digs on Senior Day against Oklahoma (11/30).
For the second-consecutive season, Kansas will host the highest RPI bracket of the first and second rounds. On the latest RPI release (11/30), Kansas is No. 11, Creighton is No. 24, Arkansas-Little Rock is No. 31 and Oregon State is No. 36 for an RPI average of 25.5. Oregon’s host site is the only other that has four teams with an RPI average in the 20s (No. 10 Oregon, No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 38 LSU, No. 46 Santa Clara).
Not only are the Jayhawks making their third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, this season also marks the third-straight year that Kansas was named an overall national seed (No. 14, 2013; No. 11, 2012). KU joins perennial volleyball powers Stanford, Texas, Washington, Penn State, Florida, Kentucky and Nebraska as the only other teams in the country to earn a national seed in each of the last three years.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
Although the NCAA Tournament will take place in the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka this season, if history repeats itself KU fans will be glad to show their support. The Jayhawks sold out a program-record seven different matches inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center in 2014, beating their previous high (5) set last season. Had just 18 more fans shown up for KU’s showdown with West Virginia on Nov. 26, Kansas would’ve sold out every Big 12 home match this season. KU’s home attendance ranks fourth in the Big 12 and 35th nationally. In the last three years, KU is a solid 41-8 at home.
SCOUTING ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (29-4, 20-0 SUN BELT Conference)
UALR heads to Kansas after capturing its first Sun Belt Tournament title since 2000. The Trojans boast the nation’s longest win streak at 24 matches and put together the first 20-0 regular-season Sun Belt slate in conference history. UALR dropped just 10 sets over its win streak, which dates back to Sept. 12.
The Trojans are led by senior outside hitter Edina Begic, the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year for the third-straight season – the most of any player in conference history. She attacks for an impressive 4.66 kills per set and has more than 500 total kills on the season.
Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Edina Selimovic and junior outside hitter Sonja Milanovic joined Begic on the All-SBC First Team. All three hail from Bosnia-Herzegovina and stand 6-2 or taller. As a unit, UALR puts up 13.62 kills per set and has a solid .283 team attack percentage, which would rank second behind No. 3 Texas in the Big 12.
The Trojans are led by 27-year coaching veteran, Van Compton, who was named the 2014 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. Compton and Kansas coach Ray Bechard have a long-standing history as she used to recruit players from Bechard’s previous school, Barton County Community College.
The winner of the Topeka, Kansas bracket will advance to the Ames, Iowa Regional hosted by Iowa State, Dec. 12-13.
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