Volleyball v Wichita 8/17

The Jayhawks celebrate after winning a point during an exhibition match in Wichita. The Jayhawks beat the Shockers 3-2 Saturday, Aug. 17.

Analysis

After an up and down 2018 season, Kansas volleyball will return in 2019 with something to prove. Kansas is only four years removed from its Final Four run in 2015 and is attempting to keep itself from going into rebuild mode.

The 2019 season kicks off Friday, Aug. 30, with a matchup against UMKC. The first major challenge of the season will come during the UCF Challenge when Kansas travels to Orlando, Florida, to compete in three matches.

The Jayhawks will play against two tough competitors in both South Carolina and UCF. Both the Gamecocks and the Knights appeared in the NCAA tournament last season, but each was out by the second round of the tournament.

Heading into this season, each team is receiving votes for a top-25 bid with UCF receiving 45 and South Carolina receiving six. Kansas received two. 

On Sept. 13, the Jayhawks will play against their first-ranked opponent the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona is currently ranked at No. 24 and finished its 2018 campaign with a record of 22-11.

Much like UCF and South Carolina, the Wildcats had a short-lived run in the NCAA tournament last season as they were bounced in the first round.

One of the most interesting games of the season will come on Sept. 20 during the Rebel Challenge in Las Vegas, Nevada. Kansas will play the Arizona State Sun Devils, the school which former Jayhawk Jada Burse transferred to during the offseason.

Burse signed with the Sun Devils on June 10 after having the best season of her collegiate career in 2018.

Kansas opens up Big 12 play on Sept. 28 when the Baylor Bears visit the Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena. The Bears finished second in the Big 12 last season and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The first match against in-state rival Kansas State will occur on Oct. 23 in Manhattan with the second matchup coming nearly a month later on November 16.

On Oct. 26 Kansas will face its toughest opponent when the No. 4 ranked Texas Longhorns come to visit Lawrence. Last season, the Jayhawks were the lone Big 12 team to defeat Texas with the victory at home. 

Kansas will have another opportunity to defeat the Longhorns on Nov. 23. However, no Big 12 team has been able to beat Texas at home in each of the last four seasons.

The top portion of the conference, Texas and Baylor, will put a challenge on the Jayhawks and the most likely outcome is for Kansas to hold its own against both teams. 

Kansas will need to defend the home court, the brand new volleyball arena, to reach an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. However, with significant departures from the squad, Kansas is going to struggle.

The Jayhawks will look to rebound from its up and down season last year and reclaim themselves as one of the top teams in the Big 12 conference, but those are lofty expectations. Coach Ray Bechard has been around for some time and has one of the best records since 2012, but losing key players from last season will hurt.