LAWRENCE, Kan. – A comeback, five-set win at Oklahoma on Wednesday set the stage for a battle between the two remaining undefeated teams in Big 12 Conference play, when the 21st-ranked Kansas volleyball team meets No. 9 Texas inside the Gregory Gymnasium, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
A live audio stream will be available free of charge on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Kyle West will call the action. Fans can always track the Jayhawks on GameTracker or by following @JayhawkVball on Twitter. The match will be televised live on the Longhorn Network, but the network is not available in Kansas.
Texas holds a 31-4 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, 15-1. Texas is 3-0 against Kansas on a neutral court. UT has been in the nation’s top-10 in the previous 12-consecutive meetings.
AT A GLANCE
- Kansas matched its highest win total in the last seven seasons (17, 2010) on Wednesday at OU and for the first time in program history, KU has won 17 of its first 19 matches. The last time the Jayhawks tallied 17 victories in a season prior to 2010 was the 2004 campaign, which resulted in an NCAA Tournament bid at season’s end.
-KU continued its historical run through conference play with a win at Oklahoma on Wednesday, tallying a 5-0 record for the first time in either league’s (Big 12 or Big Eight) history.
-Kansas moved up to No. 21 on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches Poll, on Oct. 8, tying the highest ranking ever for the Jayhawks (9/20/04). For the second-straight week, four Big 12 members hold spots in the nation’s top-25: No. 9 Texas, No. 14 Kansas State, No. 21 Kansas, No. 23 Iowa State, while Oklahoma is receiving votes.
-The Jayhawks moved to No. 14 on the NCAA RPI projections this week. Kansas debuted at No. 9 on the first NCAA RPI release of the season (Oct. 1) - the highest RPI mark in program history. In 2012, Kansas is 4-2 against top-50 RPI teams and 9-2 against the top-100 with the Jayhawks' only losses coming at Arkansas (No. 20) and at Notre Dame (No. 34).
-If the season ended today, Kansas would tie another program record as only one other Jayhawk offense has accumulated a .246 team attack percentage in a single season (2003). Additionally, KU’s 16.21 digs per set would check in as the best since the 2001 campaign (16.25).
-KU is 4-0 this season against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll (RV Tulsa, RV Creighton, No. 19 Iowa State, RV Oklahoma).
-After a career-high 43 digs at Oklahoma, junior libero Brianne Riley needs just six digs (394) to become the only Jayhawk in history to reach the 400-dig mark three times.
-In the latest NCAA national statistics (Oct. 8), junior setter Erin McNorton ranks seventh in the country in assists per set (11.90), Jarmoc checks in at 15th in attack percentage (.396), while junior libero Brianne Riley is 33rd in the NCAA in digs per set (5.47) - all three have led the Big 12 in their respective categories since Aug. 28.
-For the first time this season, Kansas dipped to second in the Big 12 in assists per set (13.39), as Kansas State took the lead (13.44, 17th NCAA). As a unit, KU continues to lead the Big 12 in kills (14.26 per set, 24th NCAA) and digs (16.21, 80th NCAA).
NO. 21 KANSAS (17-2, 5-0 Big 12)
Led by head coach Ray Bechard, in his 15th season at Kansas, the Jayhawks find themselves in a unique position. When KU traveled to Austin a year ago, the team was second in the league standings – the same place the Jayhawks are in 2012 – but the similarities end there. In their last time out, KU moved to a perfect 4-0 in five-set matches and improved to the same mark against ranked opponents, or those receiving votes.
Each of those wins, however, were far from perfect. Against Oklahoma, the Sooners doubled-up against a middle blocking crew that powers the Kansas offense, yet the Jayhawks found alternate sources. One being eight kills in the final 20 points of the match during a career-high night for redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael. KU hit a season-low -.021 in the third set en route to its largest margin of defeat in 2012 (13-25), but responded with a fourth-set victory to force a game five. An 8-1 lead to start the fifth set stole the remaining momentum on OU’s home floor and depicted the reasons that the second-place Jayhawks the Longhorns welcomed last year are not the same crew traveling to Austin in 2012.
Carmichael has led the Jayhawks in kills two of the last three matches, averaging a team-best 3.36 kills per set during that span. Meanwhile, redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc is holding strong atop the Big 12 with her .396 attack percentage. The Calgary, Alberta, Canada native leads the team with 3.67 kills and 1.28 blocks per set. Sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton is right behind her with a 3.27 kills per set mark, putting both in the league’s top-10.
Additionally, Jarmoc and senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree are the only duo in the league to land in the conference’s top-10 in both attack percentage and blocks per set.
Friday’s match will pair the Big 12’s top setter in assists per set, KU junior Erin McNorton (11.90) against Texas junior Hannah Allison, who checks in at ninth with 8.47 assists per set.
Kansas will look to offset the nation’s best blocking team with its own Big 12-best 16.21 digs per set average, led by junior libero Brianne Riley. Riley leads the league with 5.47 digs per set, including a career-high 43 in the Jayhawks’ win at Oklahoma.
NO. 9 TEXAS (14-3, 6-0 Big 12)
The Longhorns are led by four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year Jerritt Elliott, who entered his 12th season at Texas in 2012. Elliott and his squad were unanimously voted to win the league in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, following an Elite Eight appearance in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. UT fell to UCLA in the regional finals, who eventually went on to win the national championship. Heading into Friday’s match, the Longhorns have yet to lose a set in Big 12 play.
A true perennial power, Texas lost only one starter to graduation in All-American middle blocker Rachael Adams. Without missing a beat, Elliott brought in PrepVolleyball.com’s No. 1 recruit in Molly McCage. The freshman middle blocker was named the 2012 Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year. This fall, she leads the starters with a .386 attack percentage and is second on the team with 1.17 blocks per set.
McCage is only one member of a highly-acclaimed roster. Junior outside hitter Bailey Webster, the 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year and this season’s Preseason Player of the year, is on the hunt for another All-America season as she averages 3.55 kills per set – second only to Haley Eckerman’s 4.61 average. Eckerman earned AVCA and Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2011.
At the net, the Longhorns bring the country’s best 3.14 blocks per set numbers into Friday’s match. Sophomore middle blocker Khat Bell returned to the court in 2012 after suffering a season-ending injury playing at Kansas last season and leads the team with 1.30 blocks per set. McCage and senior Sha’Dare McNeal also post more than a block per frame. In the back row, the Longhorn defenders get 14.81 digs up per set.
Just one of two teams in the league out-hitting the Jayhawks, Texas hits for a .285 attack percentage. Coincidentally, KU is one of two teams in the conference recording more than UT’s 13.74 kills per set.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On going to Texas with the momentum of a program-best start both overall and conference:
“Texas isn’t going to care about that very much. They’re undefeated in conference, too, and are the premier team in our league right now. We’ll let the kids relax a little bit tonight (Wednesday), but tomorrow we get back to practice and back to work on getting ready for Texas.”
On preparing for a top-10 team during a one-day turnaround:
“It’s not the ideal thing, but it is what it is. It’ll provide an opportunity for us to get a little bit out of our comfort zone and step up our game plan a little more and do what we need to do.”
On the Jayhawks’ success in the five-set matches:
“I guess we should skip right to the fifth set the way it is. That’s comforting to know that they are going to focus at a high level and execute at a high level (when it gets to the fifth set), but at some point in time we’ll have to close matches out sooner. But in this situation, we had to get it to a fifth set. We knew if we started playing better that we could work our way back into it and that’s exactly what we did.”
No. 21 Kansas returns home to play host to in-state rival No. 14 Kansas State, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The match will be televised on Metro Sports.
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