Volleyball looks to shine with strong recruits
- Aug. 16, 2010
- 0 Comments
While most eyes are on Kansas football and whether Turner Gill will lead the Jayhawks to a breakout season, another team is primed to break out — Kansas volleyball.
The volleyball team is improving. Last year, it recorded its first winning season and most victories — 16 — since 2004.
“We made some breakthroughs last year,” said coach Ray Bechard. “We met a lot of our individual goals, technical goals, but the main goal, obviously, is to be a top half finish in this conference.”
Senior outside hitter Jenna Kaiser agrees with Bechard.
“This is probably going to be a strong group of girls,” Kaiser said. “It needs to be the breakout season”.
The Jayhawks open the season with a recruiting class ranked 26th in the nation according to prepvolleyball.com and the team is picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. The recruiting class consists of middle blockers Jessie Allen, Marianne Beal and transfer Taylor Manning; setters Erin McNorton and Kara Wehrs; defensive specialists Jamie Mathieu and Brianne Riley; and an outside hitter, Amy Wehrs.
Wehrs was ranked in the top 50 in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com and Beal was the top female volleyball player in the Kansas City area, according to the KU Athletics website.
“We’ve got the largest freshman class that we’ve ever brought in,” Bechard said. “Not only in numbers, but in quality individuals.”
College athletics are not like high school, however. These freshmen will be going against women that have years more experience than them and time spent in some of the top athletic training facilities in the country.
“It’s a huge jump,” Kaiser said.
The coaches, however, think that some of the new women will follow Kaiser’s footsteps and contribute their first year.
“We do feel like there’s a number of these newcomers, these freshmen, that will have an opportunity to jump in the mix right away,” Bechard said.
Having such a strong recruiting class will also help the team’s veterans.
“I think it’s going to make a competitive atmosphere in the gym and I think it’s going to push us to the next level with the competition it will provide,” senior outside hitter Karina Garlington said.
The freshmen will have plenty of guidance. There are nine returners, four of whom were starters and one who was a libero, or a defensive specialist.
One returner, Garlington, also made the Preseason All-Big 12 team. In addition, she has made the Academic All-Big 12 team two years in a row, has made all-tournament teams twice in her volleyball career and has a record number of kills for Kansas.
Two of the remaining returners, senior libero Melissa Manda and junior setter Nicole Tate, are also in the Jayhawk record books — Manda for career digs and career digs/set and Tate for assists/set and assists.
Not all of the record makers returned, however. Setter Katie Martincich graduated last year.
“You can’t replace Katie Martincich,” said Garlington “She’s a great leader and she’s a great person to have on your team.”
If this is going to be a breakout season, the Jayhawks will have to find a way to make it happen.
“Other people are going to have to step up and I feel like we are in the process of that,” Kaiser said.
The coaches have already held more open gyms this summer than in previous years so the team could start working earlier on coming together and defining team roles.
The public will see the freshmen and upperclassmen work together in a game-like setting on Aug. 21 when volleyball will hold a team scrimmage in Lawrence. The team’s first opponent this season will be Libscomb in the Creighton tournament, Aug. 27-28.
Edited by Dana Meredith