2012 Season Outlook: Middle Blockers
Aug. 23, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. - In the final piece of the four-part series, the Kansas volleyball season outlook wraps up with one of the strongest assets to the team, the middle blockers.
One of the most experienced positions on the roster, the middle blocking crew will be asked to step up in several ways in 2012. Alongside head coach Ray Bechard, assistant coach Laura "Bird" Kuhn works primarily with the middles and wasted no time making her mark as the Jayhawk defense elevated to a new level in 2011. As a unit, KU ranked third in the Big 12 with 2.57 blocks per set, good for 36th in the NCAA. The Jayhawks recorded nearly 100 more block assists than they did in 2010 and handily out-blocked their opponents (2.6 bps/2.0 bps).
Led by All-Big 12 Preseason Team member Caroline Jarmoc, the Jayhawks bring back senior Tayler Tolefree and junior Jessie Allen while welcoming incoming freshman Janae Hall to form a potent front line.
With an impressive 1.25 blocks per set, Jarmoc ranked second in the league in blocking at the conclusion of the 2011 season. What's more, the Calgary, Alberta, Canada, native appeared on several of the Big 12's top-10 lists last season, including attack percentage (.311), kills (2.92 kills per set), points (3.93 points per set) and checked in at second in service aces (0.28 aces per set) - proving her value both defensively and offensively.
Jarmoc is only a piece of the puzzle, however, as Tolefree sets her sights on an explosive senior year. Like Jarmoc, Tolefree was also a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honoree a year ago and finished in the top-five in the conference in blocks per set (1.14, 5th). A Lawrence native, Tolefree tends to lead by example and was the only Jayhawk last year to post a double-double comprised of kills and blocks (17 kills/11 blocks vs. Valparaiso).
Not merely a defensive unit, Jarmoc and Tolefree lead the team's returning offense with 324 and 224 kills in 2011, respectively. Only one Jayhawk in program history owns a better career attack percentage than Jarmoc's .289 (Ashley Michaels, .314).
Playing behind two of the strongest middle blockers in the league has helped junior Jessie Allen ready herself to step in when needed, while freshman Janae Hall is quickly adapting to the pace of the college game. According to Bechard, the middle blocking position is one of the hardest for players to transition speeds from high school to the collegiate level.
Nevertheless, Hall shows signs of making a smooth transition. The Centennial, Colo., native was named to the 2011 USA Girls Youth National Team that competed at the World Youth Championships in Anarka, Turkey and was listed by ESPN Rise as one of the top 25 players in the incoming 2012 class.
Head coach Ray Bechard
On the strengths of the middle blockers: