Volleyball defeats UTSA, surges into Big 12 Conference play
By Shehan Jeyarajah
Baylor volleyball won their last non-conference match of the year against University of Texas at San Antonio. The Bears won the match 3-1 (25-17, 26-24, 24-26, 25-20). With the win, the Bears moved to 8-8 on the season heading into Big 12 conference play and are at .500 for the first time this season.
Junior middle hitter Nicole Bardaji led Baylor with 16 kills and five blocks on a .243 hitting percentage. Bardaji hit double-digit kills for the first time on Saturday, and has now done it three straight times. Over those three matches, she is averaging 15.0 kills and 4.0 total blocks per match on a .303 hitting percentage.
“I’m playing a new position this year,” Bardaji said. “I’ve never played middle. I’ve been working with Amy, trying to get in sync with her. And more than anything, my relationship with Christ has really changed this year and this just brings my work ethic to a whole new level.”
Head coach Jim Barnes was pleased with Bardaji’s performance.
“She’s playing the way we knew she could,” Barnes said. “She just had to get used to playing. She’s never been a starter in the same way she is now.”
Sophomore setter Amy Rosenbaum contributed all around the court for Baylor. She finished with her first double-double, a career-high 50 assists and a career-high 19 digs for Baylor. She also added two kills and two blocks.
“It’s a lot of fun to play with my team out there,” Rosenbaum said. “And I play my best when I’m having fun.”
UTSA senior outside hitter McKenzie Adams led the nation in kills per set with 5.50 heading into this match. Over four sets, she finished with 17 kills, 25 digs and four blocks, but Baylor held her to a .065 hitting percentage on 62 total attacks. Sophomore defensive specialist Annie Kunes led the match with 32 total digs.
Baylor held UTSA to a total hitting percentage of .145 for the match. Both teams finished with 37 total errors between attack, service, receiving, block and ball-handling errors. Adams herself had 13 for UTSA.
Sophomore middle hitter Adrien Richburg was benched for the third set after Barnes said she wasn’t being aggressive enough. She came back in for the fourth set and had six kills on a .600 hitting percentage in the deciding moments. In that set, the Bears put away 19 kills and hit .306 after not hitting over .170 in any of the previous sets.
“Richburg was not being aggressive for the first two sets,” Barnes said. “But when I called her number in the fourth set to go in, she knew what she needed to do and you could see it instantly. She was way more aggressive.”
Junior outside hitter Jordan Teel started her second career match for Baylor with sophomore outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard out with an undisclosed foot injury. Teel played admirably and finished with three kills, a block and eight digs. She was one of five players to have eight or more digs in a match where Baylor set a season-high in digs with 81.
“Jordan is like Rudy, like the football player,” Barnes said. “She’s comes before practice, stays after and hardly ever plays. When Thea went down with her foot injury, Jordan got the call and has been playing fantastic. She’s been passing extremely well. She’s doing exactly what we need to win. No one can be more proud of her than me. Her teammates just absolutely love her.”
Baylor sits at 8-8 on the season, back to .500 for the first time all year. The Bears have won four of their last five matches and six out of their last eight.
“Our chemistry is really good out there,” Bardaji said. “We’re really starting to all work together. It’s been really awesome. I think we’re ready for the Big 12.”
The Bears will begin their conference schedule with a road test against No. 25 Iowa State in Ames, Iowa this Saturday. The Bears then come home to play defending national champion No. 5 Texas on Wednesday Oct. 2. The match will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.