LAWRENCE, Kan. - In the second of a four-part series, the 2013 Kansas volleyball season outlook continues with an in-depth look at the defensive specialists and liberos.
Returning: Sr. Brianne Riley, Sr. Jaime Mathieu, Sr. Amy Wehrs
Gained: Fr. Cassie Wait
Key Losses: Morgan Boub
With KU's all-time digs leader returning for her senior season and the Kansas Volleyball Gatorade Player of the Year prepped for her rookie year, the defensive specialists may be the most fun group to watch in 2013.
When she walked into the Horejsi Family Athletics Center prior to her freshman year, senior libero Brianne Riley declared that she would contend for the Jayhawks' all-time digs record someday. She wasn't lying. The best communicator head coach Ray Bechard said he has ever coached, Riley finished the 2012 season with 1,498 digs – the most in Kansas history and accomplished in only three years. Just three days before eclipsing the KU career record, Riley locked up the single-season mark as well and went on to become the first Jayhawk to break the 600-mark with 613 digs in 2012.
Now back for her final year as a Jayhawk, Riley can take her records and run with them, likely to make them out of reach for quite some time as she begins her senior campaign with 1,498 digs. Second place sits at 1,457.
Raring to give Riley some assistance in the back row is freshman Cassie Wait. Although groomed to play the back row in college rather than her outside hitter role at Gardner-Edgerton High School, Wait had a highlight reel senior campaign. She was named the 2012 6A Player of the Year, an Under Armour Girls High School First Team All-American and the Kansas Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year. One of the strongest players on the team, Wait's athleticism will be vital on the back row against Big 12 attackers.
Still adding to the group's impressive depth, seniors Jaime Mathieu played all but one set in 2012, racking up 245 digs and for a 2.01 per set average. She and Amy Wehrs, who checked in to 25 matches last fall, are not only quick in fending off opposing attackers, but also crucial in key serve situations.
Head coach Ray Bechard
On the liberos and defensive specialists:
"What a great group. I'm excited about Cassie (Wait) joining that group, and Amy (Wehrs) continuing to flourish in that role. Bri, obviously, plays at a high level in the back row as does Jaime Mathieu. The competition for those spots will be pretty intense and I'm looking forward to that. I think they'll all make each other better."
On bringing back a full cast:
"We get to return an All-American (Caroline Jarmoc), we get to return our all-time digs leader (Brianne Riley), we get to return last year's Big 12 assists leader (Erin McNorton) – along with a bunch of kids that have played at a high level. We've got some players who have experience and have had some success. We're hoping to get another great year with them."