Kansas University's volleyball team is set to take on Santa Clara in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 7 tonight in Seattle.
The Jayhawks have looked forward to their match after winning their final three games of the regular season. Despite the strong finish, the team was uncertain whether it would play in the postseason until the next-to-last bracket was announced during the NCAA selection show Sunday.
After the KU-Santa Clara matchup was announced, Jayhawk players and coaches realized they would need to research and scout a team they never had played.
KU coach Ray Bechard scouted the Broncos earlier this week. He said the Jayhawks' passing game would have to thrive to overcome the Broncos' blocking ability. KU will need to distribute the ball to all three of its players at the net.
"If we can have Emily Brown, and Paula (Caten), and Josi (Lima) all available, then their blocking consistency will go down," Bechard said. "If we don't pass well, and they know Paula's the only option we've got, then their blocking efficiency is going to go up."
The Broncos have blocked 86 more shots than their opponents, averaging 3.2 per game. Santa Clara is led at the net by Annalisa Muratore, Cassie Perret and Anna Cmaylo. Offensively, no one stands out for the Broncos because of their balanced, passing-oriented game.
"From what I've heard from coach Bechard, they block really well and distribute the ball to everyone," Lima said.
Santa Clara (18-8) finished the season in third place in the West Coast Conference, a formidable volleyball conference led by No. 13 San Diego and No. 15 St. Mary's.
It will be the Broncos' seventh straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, so the Jayhawks know experience won't be a problem for a Santa Clara team with no seniors.
The Jayhawks will follow last year's NCAA appearance -- their first-ever -- where they beat favored Long Beach State. Bechard said he worried last year about his team's inexperience even though it advanced to the second round, but he said he didn't think it would be a problem this year.
"They'll be more comfortable," Bechard said. "Going into Malibu to play Long Beach, I wasn't overwhelmed, but it was different."
If they Jayhawks win today, they will play the winner of Washington's matchup against Idaho. Third-ranked Washington is the likely winner of that match, entering the tournament after winning the Pac-10 Championship and posting a 24-2 regular-season record.