By Shehan Jeyarajah
The Bears went 2-1 over the weekend with two wins against Appalachian State and Northwestern State before falling in the Baylor Invitational final against Colorado in straight sets.
Baylor won their first match of the weekend against Northwestern State 3-1 on Friday. The sets were 25-19, 25-17, 21-25 and 25-23.
Sophomore outside hitter Adrien Richburg led the Bears’ balanced effort. Richburg had 15 kills with a .357 hitting percentage. She also added six total blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard added a double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs. Senior outside hitter Zoe Adom and sophomore outside hitter Laura Jones combined for 19 kills.
The Bears for the match hit .287 and held Northwestern State to .138 hitting percentage.
The Bears also forced the Demons into 46 errors.
Sophomore outside hitter Caiti O’Connell led Northwestern State with 14 kills.
Freshman outside hitter Ashley Elrod added 10 kills and 11 digs.
The second match against Appalachian State on Friday night was a sweep for the Bears as they won in straight sets, 29-27, 25-20, 25-15.
The Bears were led by a strong performance from Munch-Soegaard. She finished with 14 kills and 16 digs on a .344 hitting percentage. Richburg added nine kills on a .692 hitting percentage, including four blocks.
Freshman middle hitter Tola Itiola provided a spark as usual starting middle hitter Nicole Bardaji was given the match off. Itiola finished with six kills and seven total blocks in three sets. She hit .364 for the match. Itiola felt her play improving as the match went on.
“I definitely felt a little more confident with what I was doing. I was concentrating on what the coaches were telling me to do, and I felt better executing those things.”
Head volleyball coach Jim Barnes was encouraged by his team’s play against Appalachian State.
“Appalachian State was a really positive match for us, probably the most positive match of our season so far,” Barnes said.
Baylor lost in the final match of the Baylor Invitational against Colorado in straight sets, 21-25, 23-25, 11-25. The Bears played well early, especially defensively.
Baylor took a 23-20 lead over Colorado in the second set before allowing a 5-0 run to lose the second set. Baylor gave it away in a disastrous third set.
The Bears took a 4-2 lead, but then fell behind 5-12, then 8-18 before eventually losing the set 25-11. The Bears hit a -.156 for the match.
“Set three is what happens when you give away chances to win sets one and two,” Barnes said. “The other team relaxes and the floodgates open. After that, they started playing without any pressure. If we win set two, this is a whole different ball game.”
Sophomore outside hitter Alexis Austin led Colorado. Austin finished with 12 kills on a .400 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Taylor Simpson contributed with 11 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore setter Nicole Edelman paced the Buffaloes with three kills, 32 assists and 14 digs.
Colorado’s Nicole Edelman was named MVP of the tournament. She had a balanced effort against Baylor with three kills, 32 assists and 14 digs.
Fellow Buffalo senior outside hitter Kerra Schroeder was named Defensive MVP of the tournament. Against Baylor, Schroeder finished with six kills, nine digs and three blocks.
Baylor had two representatives on the All-Baylor Invitational Team. Munch-Soegaard was named to the team after a dominant performance in the second match against Appalachian State. For the tournament, she averaged 8.7 kills and 11.0 digs.
Richburg was Baylor’s other representative. For the weekend, she averaged 9.3 kills and 4.0 total blocks per game.
Freshman defensive specialist, setter Cierra Simpson and sophomore outside hitter Alexis Austin from Colorado were named to the All-Baylor Invitational Team.
Sophomore outside hitter Emily Corrigan represented Appalachian State.
Northwestern State’s lone representative was junior libero Keelie Arneson.
“Those two wins were really good,” Richburg said. “The loss against Colorado was still good for us because it showed us that we can hang in against big teams.”
Barnes was also encouraged by the performance of the team in the Baylor Invitational.
“We learned some things,” Barnes said. “There was some good growth this weekend. We’ve got one more tournament and a single match this week to hopefully get ready for Big 12 play.”
Baylor improves to 4-7 coming out of the tournament. They will look to take another step forward on Wednesday against Rice.
The Bears will then stay in Houston for the three match Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup at the University of Houston.
Baylor will play LSU, North Texas and Houston on Friday and Saturday before finishing non-conference play next Tuesday against UTSA.
Big 12 Conference play kicks off on Sept. 28 with a road trip to take on the Iowa State Cyclones.