Our scouting report series continues as we at VolleyMob give you a more in-depth look at the biggest matchups of the week and the year. Holding large implications on the top of the Big 12 standings, specifically for second-place and a seat right at the heels of Texas for the moment, #9 Kansas visits #17 Baylor in Waco, Texas.
The Jayhawks come into this one at 16-3 (5-1, Big 12) and ranked ninth in the country while the Bears start the day ranked 17th behind a 16-4 (6-1, Big 12) record.
- Wednesday, October 18, 2017
- Waco, Texas
- 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time
- Fox Sports Go/Baylor Video/Kansas Radio/Game Tracker
KANSAS SUCCESS FACTORS
- A barrage of kills from the pins
Kansas has a shuffling middle blocker position right now, but they’ve been helped and opened up on the offensive end by the talented pin players of Kansas. All-American right side Kelsie Payne is part of that balanced attack and was strong vs. Baylor in two meetings last year, averaging 18 kills while hitting .316 to go with 6.5 digs and five blocks per match. She’s the team leader with 310 kills (4.13 per set) while outside hitter Madison Rigdon is second with 269 and 3.59 per set. The third part of it is Jada Burse, who has 155 kills (2.50 per set). That combination stretches the defense to the pins and opens things up for each other as well as the middles.
Kansas is laden with seniors on their roster, as two of the aforementioned names – Payne and Rigdon – are a part of that massive group. In fact, that eight makes up exactly half of the roster. Plain and simple, they’ve been through the ringer and know how to win on the road. They won’t be as affected by momentum swings and by a road environment, which will be huge too playing in Waco, Texas where Baylor has won nine straight matches.
BAYLOR SUCCESS FACTORS
Serving aggressively and accurately is always a key and can be a huge factor in any match. Baylor has definitely used it as a strength thus far as during just Big 12 matches, Baylor leads the conference in aces per set (1.29). Beyond that scoring the occasional point, it forces the opposing offense out of system and creates easier looks for the defense. In fact, that exact thing has happened for Baylor as their strong serve has combined with a strong defense to lead the Big 12 during conference matches in opponent hitting percentage (.169) and rank second in digs per set (15.58) and third in blocks per set (2.38).
- Go-to options on offense
The main player in this regard is All-American Katie Staiger, who leads the conference with 4.33 kills per set after being first last year too. Last season, she was not just a dominant force, but didn’t have as much help around her as this season. Now, with plenty of other viable options, Staiger opens things up even more for others around her. That has helped the Bears to hit .284 in just conference play, good for second in the Big 12. Beyond that, if the Bears get out of system or are in a pickle they know exactly where to toss the ball – something that can be very comforting a setter.
SO, HOW DO YOU BEAT THEM?
How does Kansas beat Baylor?
- Strong serve reception
This comes as a reflection to one of Baylor’s strengths in the service game and something that Kansas has a bit of control over. Not only do they need to keep the ball above the ground and in a playable area, but they will be looking for a strong passing game. If they can do that with strong serve reception to counter one of the Bears strengths, it will keep them in system and get the ball to Ainise Havili, who is leading the Big 12 through all matches with 11.84 assists per set. From there, Kansas becomes a deadly offense. Again though, that all starts with the first contact that comes in serve reception.
How does Baylor beat Kansas?
- Find balance on offense
Kansas gave up 36 kills to Staiger in two matches in 2016, but it didn’t come easily as she was held to a .116 clip. Baylor didn’t have enough around Staiger to overcome that low mark either. This season, the Bears have more options to complement. For instance, during conference play, Camryn Freiberg (.404) and Shelly Fanning (.336) rank in the top 10 of the Big 12 in hitting efficiency while Staiger is joined by Yossiana Pressley (3.41) on the top 10 of the kills per set list for inter-Big 12 play. Setter Hannah Lockin represents the balance with a Big 12-best 12.50 assists per set during conference matches. If they find that balance more than last year – which they have this season – it should cause Kansas some problems as they are near the bottom of the conference in blocking.