Volleyball striving for postseason
- Aug. 15, 2012
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As they began two-a-day practice on August 7, members of the Kansas volleyball team wanted to focus on finishing matches strong in 2012.
Head coach Ray Bechard said his team often played well early in matches, but faltered later in the final sets. The Jayhawks lost 42 sets during conference play, but 16 of those were by three points or less.
“We played to a level that was worthy of being one of the top 25, 30 teams in the country,” Bechard said. “Now we’ve got to extend that further in matches and finish matches that we didn’t quite finish off last year.”
In 2011, the Jayhawks started the season 11-1 and defeated then No. 6 Minnesota. Kansas finished with a 15-14 record and were the highest ranked team in the RPI at No. 47 to not make the NCAA tournament.
The Jayhawks return five starters and libero Brianne Riley from that team. Senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree said this is the most motivated team she’s been on because they are mindful of last season’s disappointment. She said the coaches have done a good job of bringing energy to the gym and using last season as a building block during two-a-days.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the coaches and your team, like the culture you create in the gym,” Tolefree said.
The Big 12 coaches picked Kansas to finish sixth in their preseason poll, the Jayhawks’ highest preseason rank since before the 2005 season. The Big 12 has nine teams competing in volleyball, including the additions of West Virginia and TCU, a team that won 25 matches last season.
“Obviously, we’d like to improve on that finish for how that poll finishes up,” Bechard said. “I think everybody in the conference feels like they’re NCAA tournament-type level teams.”
The Jayhawks lost two seniors from last year’s team: setter Nicole Tate and outside hitter Allison Mayfield. Tate finished with 3,554 assists, fifth in school history, and her 10.18 career assists per set are second.
Mayfield set the Kansas single-season kills record last season with 462. Her 4.16 kills per set last year were second all-time in school history. Redshirt junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc said the team cannot replace Mayfield immediately but that it will be a gradual process.
“I feel like the middles are taking on a larger responsibility as well as helping usher in the new people to slowly fill that void because she was a big part of our team,” Jarmoc said.
Jarmoc, who like Mayfield was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection last season, was a unanimous selection to the preseason All-Big 12 team. Jarmoc was second in the Big 12 last season with 1.25 blocks per set. Offensively, her .311 attack percentage is second in school history.
Bechard said he thought Jarmoc deserved to be on the All-Big 12 team last year, but Jarmoc, who prides herself on her consistency, said she is more concerned with team results.
“I’m not looking at the end of the picture being like ‘I really hope I get All-Big 12,’” Jarmoc said. “It’s ‘I really want a good season.’”
—Edited by Ryan McCarthy