By Shehan Jeyarajah
After a resilient showing against No. 4 Texas last Wednesday, Baylor volleyball struggled and eventually fell to Big 12 rival Kansas 3-1 on Saturday in front of a crowd of 568 fans. Baylor fell 16-25, 25-23, 22-25, 17-25. With the loss, Baylor falls to 8-11 on the season and 0-3 in Big 12 play.
Sophomore outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard led Baylor with 17 kills, 12 digs and two blocks in her second match back from a foot injury. Sophomore outside hitter Laura Jones added 11 kills. Sophomore setter Amy Rosenbaum had an all-around match with four kills, four digs, an ace and 45 assists.
Senior outside hitter Zoe Adom was benched in the second set after struggling in the first set with zero kills and two errors. Barnes mentioned that he did not approve of her warm-up or her body language throughout and opted to sit her for the second set. She would return for the third and fourth.
In their second set win, Baylor fell down by margins as wide as five points throughout the set, but managed to push Kansas behind and win anyway 25-23. Outside of that set however, Baylor finished with a hitting percentage of only .114 for the match.
“We need to come into the match more focused,” Jones said. “KU is a very consistent team, and we have a lot of people on this team who are a bit up-and-down. There wasn’t enough communication, and I think that we started to almost curl into ourselves when they took a big lead.”
Baylor had no answer for Kansas junior outside hitter Sara McClinton. After only two kills in the first set, McClinton finished with a season-high 23 kills overall in four sets, eclipsing her previous season-high of 18. She accomplished this while hitting .676 for the match and finishing with zero total errors. She added two blocks for good measure to finish with 24.5 total points, more than six more points than anyone else.
“Tonight was all about blocking and hitting errors,” head volleyball coach Jim Barnes said. “Our middles didn’t slow them down. Our middles had a really off night tonight. We couldn’t slow them down was the problem.”
Baylor averaged 2.15 blocks per set coming into this match, but finished with only 0.75 blocks per set against Kansas. Kansas, on the other hand, came into the match averaging 2.78 blocks per set, but dominated Baylor with 4.00 blocks per set in this match, finished with 16.0 overall.
Baylor could not stop Kansas’ attack either. Kansas hit .296 in the first set, and that ended up being the lowest percentage that Baylor could hold them to. In the subsequent three sets, Kansas hit .424, .350 and .371 for a total match hitting percentage of .363. That is the second highest hitting percentage that Baylor has given up on the season, behind only the opener against Colorado State where they allowed CSU to hit .529.
“We talk about starting strong, but it always feels like we’re playing catch-up,” Rosenbaum said. “There are points where we start to click, but honestly I don’t know what the solution is.”
Baylor has struggled mightily on the defensive end in Big 12 play, letting opponents hit an inflated .326 against them. After being a solid blocking team all season, they are averaging only 1.09 blocks per set in conference play. As I have mentioned before, Baylor averages almost two digs more per set when they win, but they rank last in the Big 12 in digs per set.
Baylor played three of the top four teams in the conference to open the season, and went 0-3 in those matches. Overall, they are eighth out of nine in the conference. The next match is against another highly ranked team in West Virginia who has started 2-1 in the Big 12 after wins against Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Baylor will play at West Virginia on Wednesday night. They will then return home to play TCU at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16.