Ranked Rivals To Meet In Sunflower Showdown

By: KU Sports Information (Posted by J.B. Bauersfeld)
By: KU Sports Information (Posted by J.B. Bauersfeld)

LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time in the storied history between the Kansas and Kansas State volleyball programs, the Jayhawks and Wildcats will face each other as ranked opponents, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., inside a sold-out Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

FOLLOW THE HAWKS

The Sunflower Showdown will be televised by Metro Sports (Knology, channel 37). Nick McCabe and former Jayhawk volleyball player, Jill (Dorsey) Hall, will provide the talent.

KLWN (1320 AM) will broadcast its second-straight Wednesday match with Kyle West on the call. As with all home matches, KU vs. KSU 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.

SERIES HISTORY

Kansas State holds a 61-36 all-time record against Kansas in a series that dates back to 1975. At home, the Jayhawks are 16-28 against their in-state rival, while the Wildcats hold the advantage in Manhattan, 26-10. Kansas has the 10-7 lead on a neutral court. KU last defeated Kansas State on Nov. 11, 2009, when the Jayhawks swept the season series.

Always a battle, the Jayhawks and Wildcats have played only two three-set matches in their last nine meetings – both of which came during KU’s 2009 season-series sweep.

AT A GLANCE

-Kansas currently ties the 1991 team for the best record through 20 matches in program history (17-3). 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 stayed at No. 21 on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches Poll on Oct. 15, tying the highest ranking ever for the Jayhawks (9/20/04). Kansas State also remained at its No. 14 ranking. For the third-straight week, four Big 12 members hold spots in the nation’s top-25: No. 8 Texas, No. 14 Kansas State, No. 21 Kansas, No. 22 Iowa State, while Oklahoma continues to receive votes.

-The Jayhawks improved to No. 13 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 3-3 against top-50 RPI teams and 9-3 against the top-100 with the Jayhawks' only losses coming at Arkansas (No. 26), at Notre Dame (No. 38) and at Texas (No. 4).

-If the season ended today, KU’s Caroline Jarmoc would break KU’s career (.320) and single-season attack percentage (.389) records. Junior libero Brianne Riley would do the same, only breaking the single-season record (5.45) and second in career (4.56) digs per set.

-KU is 4-1 this season against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll (Wins: RV Tulsa, RV Creighton, No. 19 Iowa State, RV Oklahoma; Loss: No. 9 Texas).

-After a career and Big 12-best 43 digs at Oklahoma, junior libero Brianne Riley was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season. Against Texas, she also became the only Jayhawk in history to reach the 400-dig mark in three seasons.

-In the latest NCAA national statistics (Oct. 15), junior setter Erin McNorton ranks seventh in the country in assists per set (11.92), Jarmoc checks in at 28th in attack percentage (.389), while junior libero Brianne Riley is 19th in the NCAA in digs per set (5.45) - all three have led the Big 12 in their respective categories since Aug. 28.

-Kansas and Kansas State are even rivals on the stat sheet as the teams are tied for the league’s lead in kills per set (14.24). Kansas (13.39) is a near-second to Kansas State (13.47) in assists per set, while KU leads the Big 12 in digs per set (16.23) and KSU (14.66) is sixth.

NO. 21 KANSAS (17-3, 5-1 Big 12)

In his 15th season at Kansas, head coach Ray Bechard knows that the Jayhawks have put themselves in position to be a contender in the Big 12 standings race by focusing only on what’s directly in front of them. Bechard also knows that 20 matches into the 2012 season, Kansas is approaching its most crucial part of the season – the final third.

After going 9-1 through the first third and 8-2 in the second, Kansas holds steady at No. 21 in the country and improved to No. 13 in the RPI projections. Of the Jayhawks’ three losses, the average RPI between those opponents is 22.7 as KU holds a 9-3 record against teams in the top-100. Of the 11 remaining matches, Kansas faces only two opponents outside of the RPI’s top-100 (West Virginia, Saint Louis), while four more of those pit the Jayhawks against teams in the top-20.

Sitting in second place in the Big 12 race, a win on Wednesday would put a two-match separation between the Jayhawks and Wildcats as KSU enters the contest third in the league.

Redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc is holding strong atop the Big 12 with her .389 attack percentage and will provide a dramatic matchup between fellow junior middle blocker, KSU’s Kaitlynn Pelger. Where Jarmoc is first in the conference in attack percentage (.389), Pelger is third (.368), but Jarmoc’s 3.55 kills per set ranks third to Pelger’s second-ranked 3.92 average.

Oklahoma and Texas each keyed on Jarmoc and senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree, so the Jayhawks used their progressively balanced offense to score. Redshirt junior Catherine Carmichael stepped up in a big way, leading the Jayhawks with 34 kills, averaging a team-best 4.25 kills per set. She joins Jarmoc and sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton in the Big 12’s top-10 in kills per set, making KU the only team with three players on that list.

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 (.389, .293) and blocks per set (1.27, 1.01).

Like Jarmoc and Pelger, the rival teams also match up closely at the setter position with KU’s Erin McNorton holding the Big 12’s top spot in assists per set (11.92), while KSU senior setter Caitlyn Donahue is second (11.84).

KU has the edge on the back row with this week’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, junior libero Brianne Riley. At OU and Texas, Riley collected a total of 58 digs for a remarkable 7.25 digs per set, moving her further ahead as the Big 12 leader with 5.45 digs per set on the season.

NO. 14 KANSAS STATE (17-2, 4-2 Big 12)

The Wildcats are led by 12th-year head coach Suzie Fritz, who both played (1990-91) and coached (1995-96) under Kansas coach Ray Bechard while in his previous role as the head coach at Barton County Community College. Kansas State was voted to finish third in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, the same place the team currently holds. KSU kicked off its season with a program-best 12-0 start, which included wins over No. 10 Minnesota and No. 20 Dayton. The Wildcats’ only losses came at the hands of Oklahoma and Texas, both by sweep.

Of the teams in the Big 12, Kansas State has arguably the most veteran squad as each of the Wildcats’ everyday players is a junior or senior. Like the Jayhawks, KSU has a powerful and effective middle blocking unit. Junior middle blocker and returning AVCA honorable mention All-American, Kaitlynn Pelger, leads the team in both attack percentage (.368) and kills per set (3.92). Senior middle blocker Alex Muff paces the front line with 1.49 blocks per set, good for second in the Big 12. Junior outside hitter Lilla Porubek is the only other Wildcat to average more than three kills per set (3.10).

The setting and libero roles are both filled by seniors. Caitlyn Donahue leads the squad with 11.84 assists per set, while Kuulei Kabalis checks in with 3.13 digs per set.

HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD

On Kansas State’s veteran lineup:

“They have experience at all spots and that experience has been successful. They had a successful Big 12 regular season last year and a good run in the postseason. They have been successful against high-level opponents in and out of the conference. Absolutely, they are an experienced team that has seen a lot of levels and has seen a lot of successes.”

On the hype surrounding the match:

“It has a little extra interest because of the two schools being close together and being in the same state. A lot of Kansas kids on the floor. There is significance in that. You can’t get too overly hyped about those things and lose focus on what you have to do to be successful. It is an opportunity at home against a good team. In the big scheme of things it’s another really, really good Big 12 team that we will have to prepare for and be our very best to have the type of result we want to have.”

On Kansas playing better as the match progressed at Texas:

“We were getting better as the much went along. You have to extend the match to have any chance. I didn’t think we executed as well at the end of set three. A lot of that has to do with a very good Texas team. Anytime you don’t do the things that you would like to do, you always say, ‘Hey, we didn’t play well.’ Well, that’s a direct compliment of the team you’re playing because they are taking you out of the things you want to do. That part was a little disappointing, obviously. We didn’t make the plays we needed to. Texas was better than us on Friday night and we didn’t make the plays we needed to in order extend the match. It appeared like we were making it more competitive as the night went along, but at some point you have to really jump both feet in and extend the match. We weren’t able to do that.”

On the team’s position at this point in the season:

“We’ve created, through the first six league matches, an opportunity for ourselves. This is a time of year where some teams turn it on and continue to get better and try to reestablish what their goals are and recommit. Then there are times when this time of the year creates a little complacency and teams aren’t sure where they are headed. Obviously, we feel like we’re the first in that group. To this point, 20 matches in, you’ve got two-thirds of your matches played, but a lot of emphasis is given to the last third of your season; how you finish and the momentum you’re playing with. We have a lot of work to do. We’re going to be somewhat pleased with some of the work we’ve done, but if you settle at this time of year, then teams are going to go by you. We’re not in any position to let that happen.”

UP NEXT

No. 21 Kansas stays at home to welcome TCU to the Horejsi Family Athletics Center for the first time as a Big 12 member on Saturday, Oct. 20. The match is also the “Jayhawks for a Cure” event and is set to begin at 1 p.m.

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