PrepVolleyball.com Names Bechard National Coach of the Year, Three Jayhawk All-Americans
CULVER CITY, Calif. – PrepVolleyball.com selected University of Kansas head coach Ray Bechard as the National Coach of the Year and three Jayhawks as All-Americans on Tuesday. PrepVolleyball.com’s All-America honors include sophomore setter Ainise Havili and sophomore right-side hitter Kelsie Payne on the first team and junior libero Cassie Wait on the second team.
The widely-respected publication — dedicated to covering volleyball at the high school, club, and college levels of the game — references the expectation-shattering and unprecedented heights that Bechard led the Jayhawks to in 2015 as what separated him from a pack of impressive coaching performances this season.
In his 18th season at KU, Bechard guided the Jayhawks to the program’s first NCAA Final Four appearance, a program-record .909 winning percentage (30-3), a 19-0 start, not losing to a lower-ranked opponent all season, and defeating No. 1 seed USC in the NCAA regional finals. KU’s three losses were to the two teams that played for a national title (Texas and Nebraska).
Kansas began the season receiving votes in the AVCA Coach Poll and finished with a program-record No. 4 ranking.
Havili and Payne, both AVCA first-team All-Americans, were the keystones to one of the most potent offenses in the country, which finished ranked fourth in hitting percentage (.299), second in kills per set (15.1), and second in assists per set (14.2).
Havili, the Big 12 Setter of the Year and NCAA San Diego Region MVP, ranks second in the nation in assists per set (12.2) while guiding Kansas to a program-record .299 hitting percentage.
PrepVolleyball.com on Havili: “Perhaps no player in the country emerged onto the national scene the way Havili did this fall. Despite being a sophomore, she established herself as one of the nation’s top setters as she ran the Jayhawks’ offense effectively and precisely. She also brings a calming demeanor and was one of the team leaders.”
Payne is the Big 12 kills per set leader and the only member of the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team who did not play in the finals. The Austin, Texas, native finished the season as the only player in the nation to rank top-35 in hitting percentage (32nd; .386) and kills per set (17th; 4.4) while setting a KU record with 496 total kills.
PrepVolleyball.com on Payne: “It shouldn’t come as any surprise to see Payne here. She was the nation’s best right-side attacker after switching from a middle blocker last fall.”
Wait, KU’s unfaltering libero, set impressive marks during the season – ranking second in the Big 12 in digs per set (5.2), becoming the third-fastest Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career digs, and guiding KU’s defense to lead the Big 12 in opponent hitting percentage (.163) – but PrepVolleyball.com’s recognition is her first postseason honor, aside from an NCAA San Diego All-Region nod. The Gardner, Kansas, native averaged 5.7 digs per set during the NCAA tournament and served KU’s remarkable 6-0 run to rally the Jayhawks from down 13-9 in the fifth set and defeat No. 1 seed USC.
PrepVolleyball.com on Wait: “Wait was a backrow bully who didn’t hesitate to pick on weak attackers, or someone like (USC’s National Player of the Year) Sam Bricio for that matter. It’s difficult imagining Kansas plugging in any other player at libero and still turning in the season the Jayhawks did. Wait was part of the team’s emotional pulse and it didn’t hurt that she averaged a remarkable 5.19 digs per set.”
PrepVolleyball National Coach of the Year
KU on the PrepVolleyball All-America Teams
Ainise Havili (First Team)
Kelsie Payne (First Team)
Cassie Wait (Second Team)
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