Kansas to Face Sunflower Showdown Rival Kansas State in Final Road Trip
Nov. 21, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. -A midweek meeting with Kansas State will set the stage for the Kansas volleyball team's final road match of the regular season. The Jayhawks will travel to Manhattan, Kan., to square off in the last Sunflower Showdown of the year, Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Kansas (14-13, 2-12) enters the midweek contest more rested than normal as the Jayhawks did not play a weekend match for the first time this season. The extra rest will prove useful against a high-powered Kansas State (19-10, 8-7) squad. The Wildcats head into Wednesday's match after posting a 2-2 record in their last four outings, three of which occurred against top-25 teams.
"They're playing very, very well," Kansas head coach Ray Bechard said. "They had that stretch where they played Texas and Iowa State back-to-back, which would create issues for anybody. They've positioned themselves very well to create some opportunity for themselves. They had a stretch where they played four, five-set matches in a row and won three of them. That put them in a good situation to possibly move on to postseason. Wednesday is their last regular season match, which I'm sure they will be interested in and excited and we will be, too."
In a league with eight of its nine members in the top 50 of the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), Kansas State is one of just four teams with a winning record in Big 12 play. In the difficult stretch Bechard referenced, the Wildcats took on then-No. 25 Oklahoma, then-No. 8 Texas and then-No. 13 Iowa State in three-straight contests. KSU knocked off the Sooners, but fell to the Longhorns (RPI: 4) and Cyclones (RPI: 2) before bouncing back to defeat Texas Tech in their last time out. The Wildcats now sit one victory shy of 20 wins for the first time since the 2008 season.
Kansas enters the week at No. 47 in the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index, while Kansas State sits at No. 27. According to KU's records, Kansas State leads the all-time series 60-36, with the first official year of volleyball at Kansas occurring during the 1975 season.
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KANSAS (Overall: 14-13 | Big 12: 2-12 | RPI: 47)
Talent is not in question for a Jayhawk squad that is suffering from its lowest mark in Big 12 play since the 2006 season. Four different Jayhawks are ranked in the top-five in various Big 12 statistics. Only Texas A&M and nationally-ranked Iowa State have more individuals checking in that high on the stat charts (each have five).
After posting her ninth double-double of the year against Oklahoma, senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield now leads the Big 12 with 4.17 kills per set and needs just 28 more kills to become the Jayhawks' all-time single-season kills leader.
Middle blockers Caroline Jarmoc (1.22) and Tayler Tolefree (1.17) rank second and third, respectively, in the league in blocks per set to help Kansas rank third in the conference - 37th in the NCAA - as a team with 2.59 bps. Additionally, Jarmoc's 0.27 service aces per set are third-best in the Big 12, as are Mayfield's 4.58 points per game. Sophomore libero Brianne Riley ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 4.21 digs per set.
"That's been our goal all year is to create that balance," Bechard said. "Jarmoc and Tolefree have done that in the middle, so if we can get (Chelsea) Albers and our other freshman outside, (Sara) McClinton, to keep scoring offensively, that will create a little more balance that everybody hopes to have."
That even distribution was clearly evident in the team's most recent action versus Oklahoma on Nov. 16. Mayfield led the floor with 18 kills, but the senior leader had additional help as Albers (10), McClinton (12) and Jarmoc (14) put four Jayhawks in double-digit figures for the second time this season. The impressive stat last occurred against the Sooners when the two teams met in Norman, Okla., last month. Prior to that, Kansas hadn't pulled off the rare feat since the 2009 season.
"It's good to see Albers (whose 10 kills were a career-high), continue to make strides offensively, since that's a big part of what we're trying to do," Bechard said. "There's been times when we've been a little out of balance and Mayfield has had to carry the load for us offensively, but I think now we're getting offense from other sources. The key is now if we can get those critical points at the end of sets that determine wins and losses in those sets, and eventually, matches."
RV KANSAS STATE (Overall: 19-10 | Big 12: 8-7 | RPI: 27)
"They expect a lot out of Pelger, but the player who has probably advanced the most in the last month for them is (Lilla) Porubek," Bechard said. "When Pelger was out, Porubek kind of took over along with (Kathleen) Ludwig. Those were two great wins for them, when Pelger - who arguably does as much for them as any one player does for any team in this league - wasn't able to play."
Pelger does do plenty for the Wildcat lineup as her 4.12 kills per set is tied for second in the league, behind Mayfield. Since her return against then-No. 8 Texas, Pelger has recorded 31 kills in KSU's last three outings. Porubek, the sophomore outside hitter Bechard discussed, is second on the team with 3.28 kills per set, good for ninth in the league.
Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue ranks second in league play as one of just two setters in the Big 12 averaging over 11 assists per set. The junior posted a double-double against the Red Raiders in the Wildcats' 3-1 victory in their last time out.