Ray Bechard: Well, we hope so. We bring in four new key players. We did lose three players that were significant to our program. So, there will be a transition phase as there always is.
We are a little bit more physical. We brought in four kids all at six feet or taller and we now have ten kids on our roster that are six feet or taller. That's been one of our issues in the past – just the physicality of the Big 12 and in some cases our inability to match up with that. We feel like we're as close as we've been to being the type of physical team we have to be. But now, obviously, there's some other areas that we need to remain sharp in and that's the defensive side of the ball and that chemistry will hopefully develop again.
JI: You already mentioned your four talented freshman, is there anyone specifically -- whether it be an incoming rookie or another underclassman who has already been at KU for a season -- that you expect to have a breakout year in '04? RB: We've got four new kids. We think that all could contribute right away. Obviously, with the number of returners we have coming back they probably won't all be on the floor at the same time.
We have Emily Brown from Baldwin City High School who is very versatile and brings a tremendous amount of athleticism, as does Kristin Buehler and Tessa Jones, two kids from the Kansas City area. Then you throw in transfer Paula Caten from Barton County Community College who gives us a physical presence on the outside.
We hope all those kids can jump into the mix right away, but for this Jayhawk team to be successful it'll come down to our middles, Ashley Michaels and Josi Lima having to continue to play at a high level. Lindsey Morris brings a great deal of experience. Jill Dorsey and Ashley Bechard played key roles for us last year and they'll be seniors and it goes on and on.
Yes, newcomers have a chance but I think to survive in this league you better have a core group returning to really keep you on track. Now, Janaina Correa is kind of the wild card right now. She got off to such a great freshman year and then suffered the serious knee injury, but we feel like she's almost all the way back and we're excited about her getting on the floor.
JI: With those three key seniors from 2003 now gone, new players will have to slide into their leadership roles. How confident are you in your new group of team leaders? RB: Sarah Rome and Abbie Jacobsen and our third senior Jordan Garrison all provided leadership in their own way and will be missed.
We do feel like this core group of seniors who have been together four years – Ashley Michaels, Ashley Bechard, Lindsey Morris, Jill Dorsey – who uniquely enough all that live within an hour of our campus, all in state players, will supply that type of leadership. They have very high expectations. They want to improve upon the things that happened last year and I think they'll set the pace of practice and how we want to play by example.
They've been in the gym all summer and they've been in the weight room all summer and that's where it all starts. We're really excited about those kids and what they can do.
Josi Lima is now a junior and some of those other kids are ready to step up as well. Andi Rozum is now a junior and she finished last season very strong. So, collectively, hopefully we're ready to put out another great year.
The No. 24 Kansas volleyball team swept North Dakota State Sunday at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center to improve its non-conference record to 9-0 on the season.
Senior middle blocker Ashley Michaels led all hitters with 12 kills in 21 attempts for a .524 attack average and three block assists. Junior outside hitter Paula Caten added 10 kills to go with three block assists with five other Jayhawks notching three or more kills.
Junior middle blocker Josi Lima had nine digs and eight kills while senior libero Jill Dorsey led the KU defense with 13 digs. With her 13 today, Dorsey became just the eighth player in KU history to record 1,000 career digs.
Sophomore outside hitter Jana Correa, back from a nagging injury, posted seven kills (.333 attack percentage) in limited action. Junior setter Andi Rozum led all players with 29 assists.
"We ended our non-conference play on a high note and finished 9-0," KU head coach Ray Bechard said. "Now we have to focus on Big 12 play. Our next opponent, Texas Tech is a capable, high-energy team and one of the more aggressive serving teams in the Big 12."