LAWRENCE, Kan. -(kuathletics.com) For the second-straight season, Kansas volleyball will start its season nationally ranked as the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) slated the Jayhawks No. 22 on its annual preseason poll.
Kansas tied the program's highest ranking last season at No. 17 after advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. Combined with the 2014 preseason ranking, the Jayhawks have appeared on the poll for the last 12-consecutive weeks. Since 2012, Kansas has either been in the top-25 or received votes on 24 of the last 27 national polls.
"We're trying to build a culture of success over time," head coach Ray Bechard said. "Teams have to make certain commitments in order to grow that culture. That's what we're working toward."
The Jayhawks finished 25-8 overall and 12-4 in the Big 12 Conference a year ago, good for a program-best, second-place finish. Down seven seniors from last year's class, Bechard and his staff brought in the 15th-best recruiting class in the country. The young team will hustle to get up to speed, considering six of KU's opponents are on the preseason poll, including No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Texas.
Penn State garnered 32 first-place votes after racking up its fifth national championship in the last seven years in 2013. KU will face PSU for the first time in program history on Sept. 13 at the Villanova Tournament. Before squaring off against the Nittany Lions, however, Kansas will face American on the same day. Defending Patriot League champion, American, checks in at No. 24 on the preseason poll.
"The preseason rankings are what we thought they would be, telling us that this schedule is as tough as we've known it to be all along," Bechard said. "There are a number of teams not even listed that are very likely to win their respective conferences this year, as well."
Creighton kicks off the non-conference ranked action as Kansas faces the Bluejays in the season-opening Kansas Invitational. Ranked No. 23 on the early poll, Creighton will be well prepared to face a KU squad that ended its season a year ago in the NCAA Tournament.
On the conference side, the Jayhawks have home-and-away contests scheduled with Texas, who ranks second on the preseason poll after its Final Four run in 2013. KU plays the Longhorns in Lawrence on Oct. 5 and in Austin on Nov. 22. The Jayhawks will also play two against Oklahoma and Iowa State, both receiving votes on the national poll.
KU will host its annual Crimson and Blue match on Saturday, Aug. 23 at 1 p.m., inside the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The event is free and open to the public.