LAWRENCE, Kan. – Prior to this week, only three Big 12 Conference teams had earned the league’s Offensive Player of the Week nod in three-consecutive weeks. Kansas joined the list on Monday as Sara McClinton received the honor along with teammate Tayler Soucie, who was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
Winners of nine-consecutive matches, Kansas’ three-straight weeks of offensive awards is only the eighth occurrence in the Big 12. Texas has gone three-straight in the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week category five times, while Kansas State and Oklahoma have each achieved the feat once.
“The team’s playing well and from that comes good performances,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “People recognize that. It’s everybody just working well together and keeping our eyes on some of the goals we’ve set. The function of that is our kids playing at a high level and doing good things.”
Aside from the Big 12 rarity of KU’s current hot streak, McClinton and Soucie’s awards mark the seventh and eighth weekly recognitions for Kansas (13-3, 3-0) in the last five weeks. The Jayhawks’ previous single-season record was five, set in 2012. What’s more, KU’s balance on the court is fully displayed in the award tally as six different players are accounted for in KU’s eight different honors this season.
“That’s what good teams need to get to – that level of balance,” Bechard said. “If something is taken away by how other teams are game planning, then obviously that’s going to create an opportunity for somebody else.”
The weekly defensive nod is a first for Soucie and the second weekly award of her career. The Kansas freshman was also named the Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Sept. 23. McClinton’s is her first award this season and the second of her career.
A mainstay in the Big 12’s top-10 in kills per set, McClinton was unstoppable for Kansas last week. The junior outside hitter led the Jayhawks in kills in both matches, extending Kansas’ win streak to nine-straight, tying the fourth-longest in program history.
On the road against rival Kansas State, McClinton led the team with 13 kills in the three-set win. Leading the Jayhawks against the Wildcats was clutch, but McClinton was downright flawless in KU’s road win at Baylor.
The Omaha, Neb., native was phenomenal, breaking out for 23 kills and zero errors for a .676 attack percentage – both career highs. She also registered a block assist and a solo block to lead all players with 24.5 points.
For the week, McClinton averaged an astounding 5.14 kills per set. Overall, McClinton leads the potent Jayhawk offense with 3.36 kill average, which ranks sixth in the Big 12. Heading into Wednesday’s match at Oklahoma, McClinton needs one kill for the 800th of her career.
Soucie is rapidly growing into her role as a starting middle blocker. With teammate Caroline Jarmoc causing opposing defenses to key on the Kansas middles, Soucie was efficient with her offense, contributing 16 kills and committing only two errors for a .438 attack percentage.
The freshman’s major contributions, however, occurred on the defensive side. Soucie led the Jayhawks in both matches, rejecting seven total attacks at Kansas State and following that up with nine total blocks at Baylor on Saturday. Her performance helped the Jayhawks dominantly overpower Baylor with a 16.0-3.0 blocking advantage.
Displaying her defensive dominance, Soucie averaged as many blocks per set (2.29) as she did kills (2.29) for the week. The rookie middle has now climbed her way to the top of the Big 12 leaderboard with an impressive 1.40 blocks per set.
McClinton, Soucie and the Jayhawks return home for back-to-back matches, beginning with Oklahoma on Wednesday, Oct. 9 and hosting defending national champion and fourth-ranked Texas on Saturday, Oct. 12. Both matches are slated for 6:30 p.m. start times.
Kansas’ Big 12 Player of the Week Streak
Sept. 9 – Caroline Jarmoc (Defensive)
Sept. 16 – Brianne Riley (Defensive)
Sept. 23 – Erin McNorton (Offensive); Tayler Soucie (Rookie)
Sept. 30 – Tiana Dockery (Offensive); Caroline Jarmoc (Defensive)
Oct. 7 – Sara McClinton (Offensive); Tayler Soucie (Defensive)