Tuesday, October 10, 2017
When Ainise Havili checked the record books as a freshman, that number — 4,772 — never really seemed within reach.
Now, barring a dramatic turn of events, the senior setter will not only pass that mark, but shatter it.
“It’s weird,” Havili admitted. “I can’t believe it.”
Entering Wednesday’s match against No. 5 Texas, scheduled for 8 p.m. at Horejsi Family Athletics Center, Havili is only 21 assists shy of tying Andi Rozum for the most in program history.
Havili, a three-time AVCA All-American and two-time Big 12 Setter of the Year, should cement her standing as the all-time program leader sometime in the second set, giving her as many as 16 matches and some 83-and-a-half sets to put some separation between her and the other names on that list.
“We pass by the pictures in the hallway every day and they have all the record holders,” Havili said. “I always see Andi Rozum’s picture up there. … I always figure that’s a really big number, I don’t know how I’m supposed to beat that.
“But then it just came, you know?”
It was a little more complicated than that.
First, Havili had to get to play right away. She did, starting every game and appearing in every set as a freshman.
Then, both she and the team had to be good — and fast. Havili set a career-high with 67 assists in a match as a sophomore and helped lead the squad to its first Final Four in program history that year, giving her more chances to rack up numbers along the way.
Finally, she had to stay healthy. She had to play in just about every set of every match and, as KU coach Ray Bechard put it, be “in charge for all four years.”
For that, Bechard's reaction didn't quite match his setter's.
“Kind of what we expected,” said Bechard. “Ainise has got a way of finding her attackers and putting them in a good position unlike anybody we’ve ever had here.”
And that’s exactly what No. 9 KU will need on Wednesday.
While the Jayhawks are on a 19-match conference winning streak, they’ll also be facing a team that has historically dominated the Big 12 top to bottom. The Jayhawks are no exception.
Before last season, when the Jayhawks snapped a 25-match losing streak to Texas and won their first Big 12 title in program history, the Longhorns had won five-straight conference championships and had held at least a share of eight of the last nine.
They also hold the distinction of being the last Big 12 team to actually defeat the Jayhawks in a match, winning in four sets in Austin last September.
“I think they’ll probably be pretty motivated,” Bechard said of the Longhorns. “It’s only one match of 16, but when two pretty high level teams get together there’s some added interest.”
And there’s no question the Longhorns are just as stacked this time around.
A season removed from finishing as the runners-up in both the Big 12 and the NCAA tournament, the Longhorns have cruised through Big 12 play, winning each of their last three matches without dropping a single set.
That'll be the challenge waiting for the Jayhawks at Horejsi on Wednesday in a match that may prove crucial in determining the 2017 Big 12 champions.
“It’s a great opportunity for fans to see volleyball at a very high level,” Bechard said. “Hopefully that’s what it’ll be.”