Big 12 Conference Bests To Face Off In Lawrence

By: KU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley
By: KU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With its program-best 13-match home win streak on the line, the Big 12 Conference’s second-place No. 23 Kansas will play host to first-place No. 3 Texas, inside a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

FOLLOW THE HAWKS
KLWN (1320 AM) will broadcast its first Saturday match of the year with Kyle West on the call. The pre-match show will begin at 6:15 p.m.

As with all home matches, KU vs. Texas will stream live - video and audio - on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. The live audio stream will be available free of charge, while the audio and video combination requires a subscription fee. Fans can always track the Jayhawks on GameTracker or by following @JayhawkVball on Twitter.

AROUND THE GYM
-Special Olympics Night: Douglas Country Special Olympics athletes will play volleyball during intermission.
-KU water bottle giveaway

SERIES HISTORY
Texas holds a 32-4 all-time record against Kansas in a series that dates back to 1981. At home, the Jayhawks are 3-13 against the perennial power, while the Longhorns hold the advantage in Austin, 16-1. Texas is 3-0 against Kansas on a neutral court. UT has been in the nation's top-10 in the previous 13-consecutive meetings.

AT A GLANCE
-After winning at No. 17 Kansas State, the Jayhawks moved into sole possession of second place in the Big 12 standings. Saturday’s match marks the first time Kansas (21-5, 9-3) and Texas (20-3, 12-0) meet in November as the first and second-place teams in the league.

-At 13-0, Kansas is the only team in the Big 12 undefeated at home in 2012, tying the program record for most home wins in a season (1978, 1991).

-Texas comes in on a 14-match win streak, including a 12-0 mark in the Big 12. Ten of the Longhorns’ conference wins are via sweep.

-The Jayhawks need two more wins to break the program’s best win total in the Big 12 era (22, 2003).

-Kansas is 6-2 against teams in the top-25 or receiving votes this season – and 6-0 at home.

-Kansas ranks second in the Big 12 in kills (14.21), blocks (2.69), digs (15.92) and assists per set (13.35). KU and UT are tied for first in holding teams to a .163 attack percentage.

-KU moved to No. 23 on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches poll (Nov. 5). Four Big 12 members hold spots in the nation’s top-25: No. 3 Texas, No. 17 Kansas State, No. 20 Iowa State and No. 23 Kansas. KU has been in the top-25 for six-straight weeks.

-The Jayhawks remain at No. 10 on the NCAA RPI projections this week, putting KU in the RPI’s top-10 four of six weekly projections. In 2012, Kansas is 7-5 against top-50 RPI teams and 12-5 against the top-100. Texas improved from No. 4 to No. 2 this week.

-Kansas (21-5, .808) is on pace to break the program record for winning percentage. The 1986 team currently holds KU’s best (26-9, .743).

-If the season ended today, redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc would break KU's career (.326) and single-season attack percentage (.390) records. Fellow junior Brianne Riley would break the single-season digs per set record as well (5.17).

NO. 23 KANSAS (21-5, 9-3 Big 12)
In his 15 seasons at Kansas, head coach Ray Bechard has yet to see his team face the perennial power Texas Longhorns with such major implications in a November meeting. The Jayhawks gave themselves sole possession of second place with the victory at K-State, but by the conference race is in full force. Iowa State did not play on Wednesday and trails KU by half a match. Oklahoma is in fourth and KSU is fifth, each separated by a single match.

With five matches remaining – four in conference play – Kansas’ nine wins mark the third most in the Big 12 era. A win on Saturday would tie for KU’s second-most Big 12 victories with the most being 13 in 2003.

Prior to the meeting in Manhattan, KU’s middles were carrying a large part of the offensive workload as senior Tayler Tolefree and redshirt junior Caroline Jarmoc accounted for more than 50 percent of KU’s kills against West Virginia and Baylor. Against Kansas State, however, the offense returned to its usual balanced state. For the seventh time this season, KU had four players in double-digit kills, led by sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton (16).

KU checks in among the top-three in the Big 12 in every statistical category outside of service aces and does so with a well-balanced cast of characters. Jarmoc is top-five in hitting percentage (.390, 1st), kills per set (3.55, 4th), blocks per set (1.35, 4th) and points per set (4.56, 3rd). Meanwhile, juniors Erin McNorton and Brianne Riley lead the league in assists (11.92 a/s) and digs (5.17 d/s), respectively.

Saturday will showcase two powerful offenses at work as KU’s Jarmoc and McClinton and UT’s Haley Eckerman and Bailey Webster all rank in the league’s top-five in kills per set.

NO. 3 TEXAS (20-3, 12-0 Big 12)
The Longhorns are led by four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year Jerritt Elliott, in his 12th season at Texas. Texas was unanimously voted to win the league in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, following an Elite Eight appearance in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The preseason assessment has been solid thus far as Texas is undefeated in Big 12 play and comes to Lawrence riding a 14-match win streak, including the Longhorns’ 3-0 win over then-No. 23 Kansas on Oct. 12.

During the Longhorns’ win streak, the team is hitting for a remarkable .329 attack percentage, while holding opponents to .147. Sophomore Haley Eckerman, a returning All-American and the 2011 AVCA Freshman of the Year, leads the Big 12 with 4.64 kills per set – and has upped her average to 4.98 during the win streak.

Junior outside hitter Bailey Webster, the 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year and this season's Preseason Player of the year, sits right in front of KU’s Jarmoc for third in the Big 12 in kills per set (3.61).

At the net, the Longhorns are third in the nation in blocks per set (3.14). The Big 12’s best blocker, sophomore middle blocker Khat Bell, will make her first trip to Lawrence after suffering a season-ending knee injury playing at Kansas last season. Texas and Kansas are the only teams in the league with two players on the top-10 list in blocks per set. KU’s Jarmoc and Tolefree join UT’s Bell and freshman Molly McCage in the top-10.

Kansas has the advantage on the back row, averaging 15.92 digs per set compared to Texas’ 14.42.

HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On the excitement surrounding the match with a sold-out crowd and the top two teams in the Big 12 standings:
“It’s exciting because it’s late in the year and you can say that. Obviously, we have a team coming in here that feels like they can play in the last match of the year. It will be a great challenge for us, but an exciting opportunity for our fans in this area to see a great team in Texas and hopefully see the Jayhawks put a good effort out there, too.”

On the support of the Kansas fan base with the team’s success this season:
“We always tell the team that they represent a nation of people beyond themselves every time they go out there and play. That’s a responsibility of a student-athlete here at the University of Kansas. It is satisfying. When you’re in it, I don’t think you get a sense for the impact that a breakthrough season might have, so that is cool. But as coaches, we’re kind of in the foxhole and thinking about how we can survive the next day. Hopefully, the results to this point in the season are satisfying to some people out there beyond us.”

On coming back against Kansas State after losing the first set in a tough road environment:
“We dug a hole in a couple sets and just fought hard. I don’t know if it was the cleanest volleyball, but we tried to work as hard as we can. Sometimes you have to outwork the team that’s on the other side of the next to get some results. We didn’t let the first set determine what our work ethic and what our energy level was going to be like. As we continued to try to chip away at that, the results got better. Obviously, in the second set, to come from behind late was critical to get it to one apiece. Then we could feel a little bit of energy in the locker room. The opportunity to come out in the third set, 1-1, was pretty big.”

On adjusting to playing without Brianne Riley against Kansas State:
“No question (she’s a key component to this team). When you take her out, you put somebody in for her, and then the chain events starts happening. Now you have two or three different people doing different things. Then we made the decision to go with Morgan Boub after the break. I’m so thrilled for her that she played well and she allowed other people to play better because they were in their home position. Jamie (Mathieu), Amy (Wehrs) and everybody that contributed in the back row – even Chelsea Albers when she was in the back – was key to finally settling into an offensive rhythm. We sided-out less than 50 percent in the first set, and then the numbers were above 60 percent the rest of the way. That’s what you have to have on the road to play winning volleyball.”

On Texas still being undefeated in such a difficult conference as the Big 12:
“I’m looking at this sheet, and there are a ton of 3-0’s on here. They’re just dusting everybody. Iowa State got their attention, but since then they’ve been really, really good. You can tell they’re focused, they’re goal-driven and they want it to be a special season. We’re in a good league, and right now they are 12-0 in that league. Half of those have been on the road, and three of those matches have been sweeps. It will be a tremendous challenge, but we look forward to it because we know it’s going to be high-level volleyball. This is an opportunity for us to get better. If we can get better, make it competitive and stay in games early with them, we’ll fight hard and see what happens.”

UP NEXT
No. 23 Kansas stays home to welcome Oklahoma to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Wednesday, Nov. 14. First serve is set for 6 p.m. and the match will be televised by Metro Sports.


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