LAWRENCE, Kan. – Preseason accolades continue to accumulate as the Kansas volleyball team prepares to open the 2013 season ranked No. 20 on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Preseason Poll, announced Monday afternoon.
Armed with the reigning Big 12 Coach of the Year and more than 80 percent of its high-powered offense from last fall, Kansas was honored with its first preseason ranking since the AVCA began the preseason poll in 1982.
Although happy with the recognition, 16-year head coach Ray Bechard was quick to turn the focus off of awards bestowed on a team that hasn't yet played a match. Voted to finish third in the 2013 Big 12 Conference Preseason Poll, its highest preseason conference selection, Kansas finished the season ranked No. 25 on the final 2012 AVCA poll and posted the highest winning percentage for a season in program history. Yet, Bechard knows his team has plenty of work to do if his team has aspirations of following a similar path in 2013.
"It's exciting and appreciated," Bechard said of the national attention. "But it goes back to us needing to focus on the task at hand and our own expectations that we set for ourselves, not what others set for us. With a veteran team, we have the opportunity for success this year, but that doesn't come if you don't take of business. Where we are at the end of the season means much more to me than where we are to start it."
The Jayhawks went 26-7 overall last fall and 12-4 in the league standings for a third-place finish, their highest in the Big 12 era. Earning its first national seed in the NCAA Tournament at No. 11, Kansas hosted the first and second rounds inside Allen Fieldhouse before succumbing in the second round to Wichita State, who checks in at No. 24 on the preseason poll.
In all, Kansas will play 11 matches against eight teams in the top-25 or receiving votes on the early poll, including a home-and-home series with defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Texas. Iowa State sits at No. 15 on the preseason list, while non-conference foe, Creighton, is No. 25.
Fellow Big 12 squads Oklahoma and Kansas State, whom KU went 4-0 against last fall, each received votes as did Wisconsin and Notre Dame. The Jayhawks are set to face Wisconsin in Madison on Sept. 13, while they welcome the Fighting Irish to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center on Sept. 22.
Fans can get their first look at the 2013 edition of the Jayhawks at the Crimson and Blue Match, Saturday, Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. Fans are invited to attend free of charge. Kansas officially opens the season on Friday, Aug. 30 against Central Arkansas at 1 p.m. in the first match of the Arizona Invitational in Tucson, Ariz.