Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NCAA | Washington volleyball faces a Kansas team that is big on its middles

Jayhawks feature a varied offense, led by a top setter
  • #3 Washington vs. #14 Kansas | December 13 | 5PM | Galen Center, Los Angeles | ESPN3

If Kansas has success Friday night against Washington, expect it to be up the middle.

Kansas middle blocker Carolyn Jarmoc
-Kansas Athletics
Middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc is an All-American who has been all-everything for Kansas during her career. The fifth-year senior out of Calgary is the Jayhawks’ all-time career blocks leader (554) career attack leader (.327) and single-season attack leader (.386 in 2012). This season, she was All-Big-12 and is sure to repeat on the AVCA All-American team.

Jarmoc’s success offers a glimpse at how Kansas operates: teams that feed their middles as much as KU does need to have quality passing and a better-than-average setter. They certainly have the latter, as senior setter Erin McNorton is grabbing as many postseason honors as Jarmoc, including Big-12 Setter of the Year.

-Kansas Athletics
When Washington faces Kansas Friday night on the USC campus in Los Angeles, the Huskies will see a team capable of spreading its offense among six different hitters. During her three rotations in the front line, Jarmoc gets the lion’s share of those attempts; when freshman Tayler Soucie is in the middle, there isn’t much of a dropoff: Soucie leads the Jayhawks with a .341 average and is the Big-12 Freshman of the Year.

As is so often the case, it may come down to serving. The Huskies are one of the best serving teams in the nation—currently fifth in aces per set—and have managed to throw most opponents out of system with hard, flat floaters to the deep corners. Simply put, a team is out-of-system when its setter has to scramble for the second ball, and when a setter scrambles, setting the middle is rarely an option.

Kansas lost seven times this season, including twice to top-ranked Texas. It managed to avenge three of its losses—Arkansas, Creighton and Iowa State—by defeating those teams in later rematches. KU lost its first match of the season to eventual tournament team Central Arkansas, but saved its worst loss for last, getting crushed by Oklahoma in the final Big-12 match of the season.


Aces Per Set
Assists Per Set
Blocks Per Set
Digs Per Set
Hitting Percentage
Opponent Pct.

The Jayhawks had some good wins—Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia fit that category—but the Big-12 doesn’t offer the week in/week out competition that teams see in the Pac-12 or Big Ten. That said, the defending national champion is fellow Big-12 team Texas.

In Kansas’ three worst losses this season—to Oklahoma and twice to Texas—opponents had an overwhelming blocking advantage (a combined 44-14). That kind of disparity is evidence of a team being too predictable, and unable to spread the offense. That was likely the case (though we did not watch those matches), as the stat sheet shows Kansas’ All-Big-12 outsides, Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton, each hit under .200 in all three matches.

So, if you’re watching the match Friday at 5PM on ESPN3, pay particular attention to the serving. Count how often McNorton has to scramble, and see if the Jayhawks’ outsides can deliver when she does.

  • Washington’s Krista Vansant, Kaleigh Nelson and Jenna Orlandini were all named to the AVCA All-Pacific North Region team. Only players named to Regional teams are eligible for consideration on the AVCA All-American teams, to be announced next week in Seattle during the annual AVCA convention.
  • Earlier today, the NCAA announced sites for future Final Fours. In 2015, it returns to Omaha (also there in 2006 & 2008). In 2016, it’ll be Columbus, Ohio. And in 2017, the Finals will once again be in Kansas City (last there in 2010). Next year’s (2014) Final Four was previously awarded to Oklahoma City, in the same arena where the former Seattle Sonics now play.
  • Kudos to the folks who create and maintain the Kansas volleyball website. In particular, the statistics section is clean, detailed and easy to manipulate for customized searches. Here’s hoping more college volleyball programs take notice.


  1. Balance as you mention is what we need more of across the board. We can't depend on Krista to take us to the Finals on her back!

    1. tubular dude, like far out man


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