Sunflower Showdown Starts In Manhattan Wednesday

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

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Armed with a seven-match win streak and leading the league in offensive power, Kansas will test both in the first edition of the Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan against in-state rival Kansas State, Wednesday inside Ahearn Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.

SERIES HISTORY
vs. Kansas State (KSU leads, 61-38): A storied rivalry, Kansas and Kansas State will meet for the 100th time in series history on Wednesday. During a record-breaking 2012 season, the Jayhawks experienced a long list of highlights and their performance against the Wildcats ranks near the top. Kansas swept Kansas State in the season series for the first time since 2009 and in both instances, KU had to come back from a first-set loss to win. When playing in Manhattan, KSU holds a 26-11 all-time advantage.

FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
Fans can listen to radio play-by-play on the Jayhawk Digital Passport, found under the Fan Central tab on KUAthletics.com. Subscriptions are available in daily ($2.95), monthly ($6.95) and yearly ($49.95) increments. Aaron Berlin will have the call.

Kansas at Kansas State will air on Fox Sports Midwest with Brian Smoller (play-by-play) and Liz Wegner-Bush (analyst) providing the coverage. Fans can also monitor the action on Live Stats or by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.

QUICK HITS
· Kansas is looking to upend Kansas State for the third-straight meeting on Wednesday – a feat that KU has not accomplished since 1993 (Nov. 11, 1992; Oct. 6, 1993; Nov. 17, 1993).
· The Jayhawks enter the Sunflower Showdown on a seven-match winning streak and are eyeing KU’s nine-game stretch the team put together a year ago – which tied the fourth-longest in program history.
· KU is receiving votes in the latest AVCA Top-25 Coaches Poll (9/30) after a three-week hiatus from the national list.
· Big 12 Conference Player of the Week awards are becoming a trend in Lawrence. On Monday, sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery and redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc were awarded Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week, respectively. At least one KU player has been recognized in four-straight weeks.
· Senior setter Erin McNorton remains atop the Big 12 assists leaderboard for the fourth-straight week with 12.11 assists per set, which also ranks fifth nationally. Since starting for KU in 2012, the Dallas native has never left the NCAA’s top-10 list.
· Entering the week Kansas is setting a solid example, leading the Big 12 kills (14.27, 19th NCAA), assists (13.35, 19th NCAA) and attack percentage (.262, 31st NCAA). What’s more, KU is second in blocks (2.73, 21st NCAA) and third in digs (16.02, 41st NCAA).

LONGTIME RIVALS
The Jayhawks and Wildcats are meeting for the 100th time on Wednesday in a series that dates back to 1975. A longtime duo, Kansas State is the only team that KU has faced 100 times in program history.

BATTLE AT THE NET
Kansas has morphed into a mainstay in the Big 12’s top-three blocking teams and sits second in the league at 2.72 blocks per set. The Jayhawks are the only squad to have two players in the top-five as redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc (1.31 bps) and freshman Tayler Soucie (1.26 bps) rank third and fourth, respectively. In 2012, KU dominated the blocking battle, 39.0-16.0, in the season series. A year later, the only team blocking better than Kansas in the conference? Kansas State (2.79).

PELGER VS. JARMOC
Two of the best middle blockers in the league will meet on Wednesday in KU’s Caroline Jarmoc and KSU’s Kaitlynn Pelger. Though Pelger plays all six rotations and Jarmoc does not, the two contest each other at the net. Jarmoc leads the career blocks battle with 483 compared to Pelger’s 367. The duo is also the main event on the Big 12’s active kills leaderboard as Jarmoc’s 1,141 career kills are second only to Pelger’s 1,336.

WE’RE GOING STREAKING
KU’s win against TCU (9/28) marked the seventh-straight victory for the Jayhawks, putting them in sight of the nine-game stretch KU put together last year. That 2012 streak tied the fourth-longest in school history. Here’s what the Jayhawks are looking at if they can keep it going:
Win Streak Year
15 1991
11 1992
10 2001
9 2000, 2012
8 1990, 2002, 2004

RARITY FOR RILEY
When the Jayhawks played at Kansas State last season (11/7/12), an injury prevented Brianne Riley from playing libero – snapping a 63-match streak of consecutive starts. She returned to her leading role in KU’s next match, but had she played, Wednesday night would mark the senior’s 85th-consecutive start.

WHO CAN FORGET
Even without the rivalry, the Jayhawks and Wildcats consistently put on highly entertaining matches. A year ago, Kansas dropped the first set in both meetings before charging back for comeback wins both times. In the series finale last year, KU got flat-out steam rolled in set one (25-13) before charging back to win in extra points for the next three sets (28-26, 26-24, 27-25). Then-sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton led the offense with a combined 35 kills and only five errors in both meetings, while then-redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc came up with 17 blocks in the series – including a double-double in the Lawrence match (11 kills/12 blocks).

HITTING THEIR STRIDE… LITERALLY
Against TCU (9/28), Kansas' hitting numbers were excellent, churning out a .369 attack percentage in the win – the third time in the last four matches KU has hit .350 or better. In the second set, the Jayhawks pounded out 14 kills without an error for a .667 mark, besting their previous season-high of .650 set at No. 24 Creighton (9/10).

DISSECTING THE STREAK
During the seven-match win streak, Kansas lost just five sets and put on an impressive performance on both sides of the ball. Offensively, redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, junior outside hitter Sara McClinton and sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery are all averaging more than three kills per set. On defense, Jarmoc, junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers and freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie are each rejecting a full shot or more per set. KU is hitting .299, while holding its opponents to a combined .157 attack percentage over the stretch.

BESTING THE BIG 12
Sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery and redshirt senior Caroline Jarmoc were named the Big 12’s Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 30. The duo's awards mark the fifth and sixth weekly recognitions for Kansas in the last four weeks. Just a week ago, two different Jayhawks were granted Big 12 honors in senior Erin McNorton (Offensive) and freshman Tayler Soucie (Rookie). Senior libero Brianne Riley (Sept. 16) is also on the list as KU has already seen five different players recognized in 2013 – a first for the Kansas squad in a single season.

RILEY IS CLIMBING
Senior libero Brianne Riley climbed to seventh all-time on the Big 12 Conference's career digs list (1,760), passing former Kansas State star Lauren Mathewson (1,755; 2007-10) with 14 digs against TCU in KU’s last time out. More than just a conference highlight, Riley ranks 16th in career digs amongst every active player in the NCAA. The next closest Big 12 libero on the NCAA’s list is Iowa State’s Kristen Hahn (1,533, 31st).

TALK ABOUT CONSISTENT
Of KU’s seven seniors, five are routine starters in the 2013 lineup. Caroline Jarmoc and Brianne Riley are the only four-year starters of the group – and what an impact they’ve had. In Riley’s 98 career starts, she has posted double-digit digs in 91 of them (40 consecutive). In Jarmoc’s 107 career starts, she has racked up double-digit kills 60 times.

BRUTAL NON-CON
In one of the most difficult schedules in head coach Ray Bechard’s 16 years, KU faced teams from the ACC (Notre Dame), the PAC-12 (Arizona), the SEC (Arkansas, Georgia), the BIG EAST (Creighton) and the Big Ten (Wisconsin) in the opening weeks of the season.

CIAO
Kansas welcomed the U-23 Italian National Team to Lawrence on Sept. 25 for the first mid-season exhibition match of the Bechard era. Despite the unofficial five-set loss, Bechard used the opportunity to play all 15 players on the roster. Kansas State lost to the Italian squad the previous night.

SCOUTING KANSAS STATE (12-2 Overall, 0-1 Big 12)
The Wildcats are led by 13th-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 fourth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, right behind the Jayhawks. KSU finished the non-conference season with an 11-1 record, racking up wins at Cal and Arkansas. The team stumbled in its Big 12 opener, falling at West Virginia in four sets.

Two-time All-American Kaitlynn Pelger leads the offense with 2.72 kills per set. Her .261 attack percentage paces the attackers, who are registering an uncharacteristic .203 hitting efficiency as a team. While the Wildcats start a veteran lineup, redshirt freshman Katie Brand distributes the offense, averaging 9.78 assists per set.

Defensively, senior libero Tristan McCarty leads a well-balanced defense with 3.18 digs per set. Pelger and Brand both average more than two digs per set. At the net, redshirt junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson leads the Big 12’s best blocking team with 1.35 blocks per set. Fellow redshirt junior Natali Jones is right behind her with 1.20 rejections per frame, while Pelger is at 0.98.

HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On Kansas State:
“They had some really good wins in pre-conference. They defend extremely well, obviously; they’re holding opponents to under .165 (attack percentage), which is really good. The number isn’t high but the balance is extremely good when you look at four people above 2.2 kills per set, there’s good balance there. They’re coming off a disappointing loss, but if you look at their body of work; a win at Cal, at Arkansas, those are really good wins. They’ll be amped up and ready to go, I’m sure, for us.”

On Kansas State losing to West Virginia and the strength of the Big 12:
“West Virginia, everybody said ‘they’re off to a good start again,’ but they’re different. They’re different this year than they were last year, there’s no question about it. We went in there last year and stubbed our toe the first set and kind of got things turned around. They obviously have a whole different vibe, a whole different level of confidence and they have had a whole year of training together. [Losing] can happen anytime, I think that just sends a notice out to the conference that one through nine you’ve got to be ready to play every night and we’ve [Big 12] got quality from the top to the bottom.”

On Kansas State’s veteran roster:
“I hope [Kaitlynn] Pelger is a senior. I think maybe [Courtney] Traxson, [Dakota] Kaufman, a lot of those kids are upperclassmen for sure. They’ve been waiting their turn, they’ve had significant roles and now obviously it’s now their turn to lead and be primary attackers and certainly they’re doing a good job doing that.”

On the matchup between Kaitlynn Pelger and Caroline Jarmoc:
“I think they’re both quality players, they do a lot for their teams. [Pelger] is unique in that she plays six rotations for her team, primary passes and digs a lot of balls. She’s a very unique talent and does a lot of good things for them. Obviously, we think [Caroline] Jarmoc does a lot of good things for us. I think there’s going to be a lot of good players on the floor when we go over there on Wednesday.”

On the rivalry:
“They’ve got a great environment over there, we’ve got a good environment here. The matches over the last few years have been highly contested, we’ve seen some high level volleyball. I think there’s a lot of interest around the state anytime we get together. We’ve got to look at it as an opportunity to keep moving forward in the Big 12 and to keep realizing some of our goals. You don’t have to put a lot of emphasis on it because the match, the environment and the scenario do that themselves. We’ll try to do the things that have been successful for us the last couple weeks and see what happens.”

UP NEXT
Kansas will stay on the road, travelling to Waco, Texas for a meeting with the Baylor Bears. The two are set to face off on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m.


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