Baylor volleyball poised for second half surge
By Shehan Jeyarajah
After losing four of the first five Big 12 matches, Baylor volleyball has won two straight to pull its record back up to 11-13 on the year and 3-5 in Big 12 play. Baylor improved its record after a 3-1 win against Texas Tech on Saturday. The Bears won sets 16-25, 25-20, 25-16 and 25-20.
True freshman setter Morgan Reed started her second straight conference match in place of sophomore Amy Rosenbaum. In her second conference start, Reed finished with 41 assists, eight digs, two kills and three blocks in four sets. Reed has had 41 assists in both of her Big 12 starts. Her 10.25 assists per set would rank her third in the Big 12 if she played enough matches to qualify.
“I think I’m doing a great job,” Reed said. “I’m trying my best. My role has shifted. Before I tried to be a leader from the bench, and now I have to lead on the floor.”
With sophomore outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard out for an extended period of time with a foot injury, fellow sophomore outside hitter Laura Jones has been relied on to play an expanded role. Munch-Soegaard has been one of the most versatile players on the roster, being a six rotation player. Jones has had to step up and play six rotations for the first time in her career.
Jones delivered against Texas Tech. She matched a career-high with 16 kills and 14 digs in the win, and also had four blocks on a .324 hitting percentage. In the two matches she has been asked to play six rotations, she is averaging 3.38 kills per set and 3.50 digs per set.
“We’ve been practicing a lot,” Jones said. ” I think mixing up the lineups and being diverse has brought a new energy.”
Sophomore Adrien Richburg had one of her best matches of the season against Texas Tech. For the third time this season, Richburg finished with zero errors. Her last two times were against Southern Methodist and Appalachian State in November. For the match, she had 12 kills and three blocks on a .600 hitting percentage.
Baylor’s defense was a key part of its success. The Bears held Texas Tech to a .193 hitting percentage. Baylor had 12.0 blocks for the match led by freshman middle hitter Tola Itiola’s six total blocks. Baylor’s defense forced Texas Tech into 40 total errors, including 28 attack errors. The Bears held themselves to 26 total errors throughout the four-set match.
With eight Big 12 matches complete, Baylor will prepare to go through the conference schedule for the second time. The Bears currently sit at 3-5 in Big 12 play. The record sits them at fifth in the Big 12, behind Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa State and ahead of West Virginia, Kansas State, TCU and Texas Tech.
Baylor has a home record of only 1-4 after the first rotation, but most of its toughest matches have been played at home. Baylor’s home opponents so far have a combined Big 12 record of 24-26, while its road opponents have a combined record of 9-15. Baylor is poised to make a run in the second half of conference play.
Baylor will look to turn the corner in a tough away match at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Kansas. The match will be nationally broadcast on ESPNU.