Havili’s Competitiveness is Heartbeat of No. 9 Volleyball

No. 9 Kanas vs. Loyola Marymount
San Diego, Calif.
Jenny Craig Pavilion
Friday, Dec. 11, 2015
7:30 p.m. CT
Match Coverage
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SAN DIEGO – Any great volleyball team is nothing without their setter. A setter is the quarterback. The point guard. The enabler. The leader.

Although humble to claim her importance to the team, sophomore setter Ainise Havili has played a vital role for KU’s offense, which ranks top-5 in the NCAA in kills per set and hitting percentage entering Friday’s Sweet 16 match against Loyola Marymount (7:30 p.m. CT, ESPN3).

Known as the “quiet assassin” by KU head coach Ray Bechard, Havili humbly credits her teammates for being great leaders and making her look as good as she is.

“I just throw the ball where it needs to be and hopefully somebody is up there to take it,” Havili says. “I get some great balls from Cassie Wait and I have some awesome hitters that put the ball away for me. They make it seem better than it is.”

Humble indeed.

The Big 12 Setter of the Year has assisted the 9th-ranked Jayhawks to the highest hitting percentage in program history (.311) by nearly 60 percentage points, and led KU to its highest winning percentage in program history (.933) with a 28-2 record.

If a setter’s best friend is a terminal hitter, Havili is Miss Popular. KU’s stable of three All-Big 12 hitters include sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, who ranks top-30 nationally in hitting percentage and kill per set.

“Ainise understands what her teammates need from her,” Bechard said. “She puts her hitters in good situations and has become a valuable team member. Her sense for the flow of the game – who needs the ball when and when she should take over – has greatly benefited the success of this team.”

The picture of her competitive nature is perfectly captured at the net – where Bechard hasn’t seen her lose a joust all season. (A joust is when two blockers from opposing teams reach a ball on the net at the same time, and both try to force it to the other side.)

“Growing up playing volleyball, I wasn’t the best. I was always told I was too weak, or too slow or I couldn’t jump high enough,” Havili said. “So whenever I go up against big middles on these jousts, I get this extra fire to try and knock somebody down. That’s why I get so many wins.”

Havili has more that proved that she belongs at an elite level, and tonight she has the opportunity make Kansas “elite” for the first time. If the Jayhawks defeat Loyola Marymount in the round of 16 (7:30 p.m. CT, ESPN3) it will be KU’s first appearance in the “Elite Eight” of the NCAA tournament.

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Written by Shelby Blankenbaker, Kansas Communications Student Assistant