Courtesy: Kansas Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas volleyball released its complete 2018 regular-season schedule on Wednesday. The 28-match slate features 10 contests against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams and 13 matches at home during the 20th season of the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
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After an Aug. 18 exhibition tune-up again UMKC for the second-straight season, KU will open the regular season with a home-and-home series against Arkansas. The Jayhawks and Razorbacks begin the 2018 campaign on Aug. 24 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, followed by a rematch two days later in Lawrence on Aug. 26.
During the second week of the season, Kansas will travel to Lexington, Kentucky, for the Bluegrass Battle hosted by Kentucky, which finished last season with a No. 6 national ranking after advancing to the NCAA Tournament regional finals. The event also features mid-major powerhouse programs Dayton and College of Charleston. Dayton, from of the Atlantic 10 Conference, has played in 12 of the last 15 NCAA Tournaments and College of Charleston earned the Colonial Athletic Association’s bid to the NCAA Tournament last season.
“Starting off with a home-and-home against Arkansas, a really solid SEC program, and then heading to a Kentucky tournament with some very solid teams will be a strong challenge,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “All four of those teams could be NCAA Tournament teams this season and Kentucky returns a lot from a team that was a top-four seed in last season’s tournament.”
Kansas returns home to host a regionally assorted Kansas Invitational, Sept. 7-8, with NCAA Tournament regular American from the East Coast (Washington, D.C.), Loyola Marymount from the West Coast (Los Angeles, California) and Auburn from the South (Auburn, Alabama). KU’s date with Loyola Marymount will be the first time the teams have met since the 2015 NCAA Tournament regional semifinals in San Diego during KU’s magical run to the “Final Four.”
The Jayhawks then trek to North Carolina for a three-match stretch against Elon, UNC Greensboro and 2017 Big South champion High Point, Sept. 14-15. Elon and UNCG are co-hosting the four teams at their respective home courts. KU’s nonconference finale will be against Drake on Sept. 18 in Lawrence.
“There are times during preconference play that you don’t have to be at your best to win, but that is not going to be the case with this schedule,” Bechard said. “It’s a lot for an inexperienced team, which we will be, but it is what we need to create opportunities for us to improve and prepare for Big 12 play and advancing during postseason play.”
The Big 12 double round-robin schedule begins at home against TCU on Sept. 22 and concludes at home against Oklahoma on Nov. 24. Conference play will continue with a Wednesday-Saturday schedule format with KU playing nine Saturday matches and seven Wednesday matches. The Jayhawks’ lone Saturday bye during the season is the weekend of Sept. 29.
Kansas was one of four Big 12 teams to compete in last season’s NCAA Tournament, joining Iowa State, Texas and Baylor. In addition to NCAA postseason play, Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia all advanced to the semifinals of the inaugural National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) last season, bringing the total of Big 12 volleyball teams competing in postseason play to seven out of nine.
“Big 12 play will be a beast,” Bechard added. “There is no bottom in the Big 12 this season. Typically there has been some separation but it will be a challege to stay in the top-half of the league this season.”
After the final home match of the season construction will begin on the new Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena. The Jayhawks have averaged nearly 13 home-court wins per season with a .846 winning percentage inside Horejsi since 2012.
“Horejsi has been the site of a lot of memorable matches and it will go through a significant rebuild after this season,” Bechard concluded. “You get a little nostalgic about it but what we really want to do is maintain the home-court advantage we have had of late.”
2018 Kansas Volleyball Schedule
Aug. 18 vs. UMKC (Exhibition)
Aug. 24 at Arkansas
Aug. 26 vs. Arkansas
Bluegrass Battle (Lawrence, Kansas)
Aug. 31 vs. Dayton
Aug. 31 vs. College of Charleston
Sept. 1 at Kentucky
Sept. 7 vs. American
Sept. 7 vs. Auburn
Sept. 8 vs. Loyola Marymount
Sept. 14 at Elon
Sept. 15 at UNC Greensboro
Sept. 15 vs. High Point
Sept. 18 vs. Drake
Sept. 22 vs. TCU*
Sept. 26 at Oklahoma*
Oct. 3 vs. West Virginia*
Oct. 6 vs. Baylor*
Oct. 10 vs. Texas*
Oct. 13 at Texas Tech*
Oct. 17 at Kansas State*
Oct. 20 vs. Iowa State*
Oct. 27 at Baylor*
Oct. 31 at West Virginia*
Nov. 3 vs. Texas Tech*
Nov. 10 at Texas*
Nov. 14 vs. Kansas State*
Nov. 17 at TCU*
Nov, 21 at Iowa State*
Nov. 24 vs. Oklahoma*