It's all or nothing for Kansas volleyball on Wednesday.
The reigning queens of the Big 12 — the Texas Longhorns — are coming into Lawrence, playing to keep sole possession of the conference title for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
No. 10 Kansas (22-1) knows beating No. 5 Texas isn't going to be easy. The Jayhawks have already played the Longhorns in Austin. That match is the only blemish on their otherwise perfect season.
Kansas was undefeated, 19-0, heading into the first match against Texas. And Texas swept Kansas in three sets.
But just because it went that way the first time doesn't necessarily mean it'll happen this time.
“It is exciting," said coach Ray Bechard. "I’m extremely pleased of the work the team has done since we played them last time. We went on the road at Iowa State, Baylor at home and played well Saturday in Norman (Oklahoma). We put ourselves back in a position to a part of the conversation for the Big 12 regular season championship.”
Kansas has one sure thing up its sleeve: Kelsie Payne.
The sophomore right side hitter was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for the third time this season. At Oklahoma, Payne threw down 22 kills with a .486 hitting percentage.
Two other Jayhawks, sophomore setter Ainise Havili and sophomore outside hitter Madison Ridgon, have come away with Big 12 honors as well. Havili won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 21 and Oct. 12. Rigdon won the same award on Oct. 5.
If Texas wins on Wednesday, it wins the Big 12 outright. If Kansas wins, the Longhorns will lose their crown, and the Jayhawks will reign victorious.
But beating Texas is a tall task. Kansas hasn't walked away with a victory over Texas since 2003.
Kansas hasn't defeated a ranked opponent this season. Granted, the only ranked team Kansas has had the opportunity of playing was Texas, which was No. 2 at the time.
Although most of the teams Kansas has faced haven't been ranked, the Jayhawks are No. 6 in this week's RPI.
However, just because Texas is much different than Kansas' other foes doesn't mean the preparation for the match is any different.
“I think we approach it like we’ve approached every other match," said junior libero Cassie Wait. "We prepare, we focus on playing one ball at a time, staying disciplined in all of our releases and everything that we manage on our side of the court, and I think that’s how we attack this match.”
The Horejsi Family Athletics Center is already sold out for the match.
First serve on Wednesday is set for 6:30 p.m. in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
— Edited by Dani Malakoff