NCAA Tournament: Kansas Holds Sweet 16 Practice Day
LOS ANGELES – Preparing for the first Sweet 16 in Jayhawk volleyball history, No. 14 overall seed Kansas held its NCAA Los Angeles Regional practice day inside USC’s Galen Center, Thursday afternoon.
The Jayhawks arrived in LA on Wednesday evening, enjoyed a team dinner and sat in on team meetings to wrap up night one. On Thursday, the team headed to the Galen Center where Kansas head coach Ray Bechard, along with seniors Caroline Jarmoc, Erin McNorton and Brianne Riley, spoke at the pre-regional press conference before conducting its open practice.
REGIONAL SEMIFINALS – Friday, Dec. 13
Match 1:  Washington (28-2) vs.  Kansas (25-7) – 7 p.m. CT (ESPN3)
Match 2:  USC (28-5) vs. BYU (24-6) – 9 p.m. CT (ESPN3)
REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH – Saturday, Dec. 14
Semifinal #1 Winner vs. Semifinal #2 Winner – 10:30 p.m. CT (ESPNU)
vs. Washington (UW leads, 1-0): Nine years and nine days separates the Jayhawks and Huskies from their only two meetings in series history. On Dec. 4, 2004, Kansas was looking for its first Sweet 16 berth and fought off the seventh-overall seeded Washington after falling behind two sets to none. Kansas stormed back, winning the next two sets to force the decisive fifth set. Washington came out on top of the back-and-forth fifth, 15-12, to advance to the Sweet 16.
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 free of charge. Aaron Berlin will have the call.
Both of the NCAA Tournament LA Regional semifinal matches from Los Angeles will air on ESPN3.com, while the regional championship will broadcast on ESPNU. Sam Gore and three-time Beach Volleyball Olympian, Holly McPeak, will provide the analysis. Fans can also monitor the action on GameTracker or by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
- Kansas is making its first Sweet 16 appearance against the team who kept the Jayhawks out of the Sweet 16 in 2004. Washington won the first two sets before KU came back to force a fifth set. UW went on to defeat Kansas 15-12 in the fifth to advance.
- Friday will pit the PAC-12 Coach of the Year in Washington’s Jim McLaughlin against the Big 12 Coach of the Year in Kansas’ Ray Bechard.
- Junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers drove the bus for the Kansas offense in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The All-Big 12 First Team member busted loose for a career-high 17 kills against Wichita State in the first round and outdid herself in round two with 18 in KU’s win against Creighton.
- Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc cranked out 25 kills and committed just three errors in the first and second rounds. Her 41 career NCAA Tournament kills are now the third-most in KU postseason history.
- Additionally, Jarmoc brought her overall career total to 1,326, surpassing former players Sarah Rome (1,306) and Karina Garlington (1,309) for second all-time at Kansas.
- The Big 12 Setter of the Year – senior Erin McNorton – tallied her seventh and eighth double-doubles of the season in each of KU’s first and second round matches, bringing her career total to 19.
- The Jayhawks played in front of 4,017 fans in their first round match against Wichita State – the seventh-largest crowd to watch a KU home match.
- The Jayhawks have played 16 matches against 11 teams included in the NCAA Tournament field in 2013, going 9-7 in those matches.
- For the tournament, Kansas is hitting .245 as a team, racking up 14.88 kills per set on 14.50 assists. KU averaged 17.38 digs per set behind a 2.25 blocking average.
- For the season, Kansas ranks in the top-30 in the NCAA in kills (14.48, 12th NCAA), assists (13.61, 12th NCAA) and hitting percentage (.259, 29th NCAA). Additionally, KU’s 2.57 blocks per set are 46th-best in the country. (NCAA Stats Released: 12/9)
Kansas Head Coach Ray Bechard
“I just want to tell you how excited we are to still be playing volleyball in the middle of December; and at a great locale, certainly. We left behind a little colder weather, so it’s great to be here, players are excited about that, but most excited about getting in the gym tomorrow and playing a very good Washington team. It’s been a very eventful year for us, one that we’ve accomplished a lot, but I know, led by this group of young ladies, we still feel like we’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’m excited about the opportunity. We think it’s a great regional and a great site, so we’re excited about all those things.”
On Washington’s serving as a concern and how to prepare for it:
“I think you prepare for that every day. We have a team in our league, Iowa State, that is similar in serving to them. We pass and serve against tough serves every day. Washington does try to create offense with their serve, so I think it’s one of those things where that’s a daily thing that you take care of and if you neglect the first contact – the pass or serve – on any of these matches or any of your preparation, it will come back to bite you, for sure.”
Redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc
On any up and down points in the season that made you transition into a better team:
“I think that it was really important for us to come out strong in the preseason. In conference, you kind of know which teams are going to be the powerhouses, and what to expect, because you’ve seen them in the past, but like coach said, he scheduled a really tough preseason, so we hadn’t faced a lot of those teams in the past, and especially on the road is even more difficult. I think it was really important for using our experience and our maturity to bring the team together to be able to execute on our side because when we’re doing our thing and running our game plan, we’re a very effective team.”
Senior libero Brianne Riley
On what makes this season unique, other than going to a regional semifinal for the first time:
“I think the group of girls on the team this year has been through the lowest of lows together and now to the highest of highs. So when you go through that as a team, [it] makes you stronger. There are other teams out there that have been successful all four years that they’ve been there, but as a group here, I like to think that we’ve really come a long way since we were freshmen because we went from being ranked in the RPIs of 150 to now we’re top 25, so that’s a pretty cool thing for us. We’ve worked really hard to get there as a group. It’s been a big team effort.”
Senior setter Erin McNorton
On what makes Washington unique when compared to previous opponents:
“I think something we haven’t really faced a lot this year is the 6-2 system that they run. I think we’re used to the 5-1, which almost every Big XII team runs. And like Coach B (Bechard) said earlier, they’re very similar to Texas where they do have those big outside hitters and we do have to kind of focus on that, but also know that they’re going to make those big plays and just kind of have to brush that off and know that’s going to happen and then focus on our side.”