Baylor volleyball is set to take on the fifth-ranked Texas Longhorns on the road 7 p.m. tonight at Gregory Gym. The Bears look to collect their first win against Texas since 2001. The Longhorns defeated the Bears in a tough four set match in Waco on Oct. 12.
The Bears enter the match after a week off since they defeated Texas Tech last Wednesday in four sets. Texas enters after winning a four-set match against TCU. However, the Longhorns have showed signs of weakness in a recent loss to Kansas and a tough five-set win against Texas Tech.
“I think it definitely gives us an extra sense of comfort knowing that teams that maybe aren’t as good as us are taking sets off them. We knew from the beginning that we had just as good a chance as anyone at beating them,” said junior middle and outside hitter Camryn Freiberg. “I think now it definitely boosts our confidence knowing how many, five sets, they’ve gone to throughout the season, even in their own gym. It’s something that we’re looking to do by taking a big win their gym.”
Head coach Ryan McGuyre said he has seen his team continue to improve this season and is hoping that they are ready to take the next step.
“We love all competition that makes us better. To be one of the top teams, you have to play with one of the top teams. Texas has been that the last several years,” McGuyre said. “It’s always a test to see how we’ve improved. When good teams play good teams, they tend to exploit weaknesses that maybe other weaker teams don’t. We need to consistently play at a high level. We are hopeful that our best will beat Texas at its best.”
Redshirt junior outside hitter Katie Staiger said she believes the key to beating Texas this time around rests on the Bears’ discipline and their ability to transition from defense to offense – an area where they struggled against the Longhorns during their first match.
“We know they are a physical team, they hit hard, but we need to be still be very disciplined in the way we are digging the ball,” Staiger said. “Not just getting the ball up, but getting the ball to where we can run our middles to where they have three options every time, so I think just really being disciplined about passing the ball where we want to pass it.”
Not only will Baylor try to overcome the hard-hitting Longhorns, but it may have to do so without the play of senior setter Morgan Reed, who is undergoing concussion protocol. McGuyre did not specify when the injury occurred or when they will know if Reed is cleared to play or not.
As a result, Baylor will have to look to put balls away early, keep the rallies short and serve efficiently against the Longhorns.
“We have to put the ball away sooner and take advantage of those first ball sideouts,” Freiberg said. “They know what’s coming from our side the same way we know what’s coming from theirs, so we are just trying to put up a good block. If we can get our serve going, we can expect those overpasses. Whether it’s me or someone else hitting the overpass, those are easy points that we have to put down right away.”
Baylor will need its stars to have big games. Staiger tallied 25 kills in the first meeting against the Longhorns. She is coming off of a career-high 31 kills against Texas Tech while junior libero Jana Brusek led the defense with a career-high 32 digs. McGuyre is expecting both to step up and have big matches tonight.
“You need your stars to play like stars in some of these big matches. Katie probably has get about 30 kills to win at Texas and Jana is dependent on our blocking and our scheming,” McGuyre said. “She doesn’t need to have as many digs, but control her touches and make sure they are quality touches that help us convert digs into points.”
McGuyre also hopes that as they prepare to play perhaps their toughest match of the season and look to solidify their successful season with a win over Texas, they will also remember the real reason for which they play.
“Remember what we are designed and created for. The quest for some of these temporal things won’t be as joyful as continuing to play for one another and playing for something bigger than themselves,” McGuyre said. “Some of the things that have made them special this year has been that self-sacrifice. Play for the Lord and play for each other.”
The match will be available to watch on the Longhorn Network and the WatchESPN app.