Volleyball begins season with success

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

It’s early in the 2011 Baylor volleyball season, but the Lady Bears already have an idea of what’s working and what isn’t.

The Lady Bears went 2-1 in their first tournament of the season, last weekend’s Mortar Board Premiere at Purdue University, and finished the tournament in second place.

Senior middle blocker Briana Tolbert and junior preseason All-Big 12 selection Torri Campbell earned all-tournament honors.

Baylor’s first match, against host Purdue, did not start out the season as planned, with Purdue sweeping the Lady Bears 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-17) and outhitting them, .248 (43-15-113) to .101 (31-19-119).

Purdue recorded four service aces on the night, a statistic Baylor head coach Jim Barnes is not proud that they received.

“Purdue is a team that is going to have a great year,” Baylor head coach Jim Barnes said. “With that being said, we learned quite a bit tonight on how we need to improve in our serve and serve-receive. We needed to serve better to get them out of their offense. .”

Campbell powered the offense with 10 kills, receiving help from senior setter Brittany Ridenour with 25 assists.

The defense was led by senior Allison King at libero with 19 digs.

At the net, Campbell and Tolbert had three block assists each.

In their first game with the team, the freshmen came and represented well.

At utility, Adri Nora had 4 kills and a block assist, outside hitter Nicole Bardaji had two kills and a block assist and defensive specialist Hope Ogden had two digs.

“I like how Adri (Nora) came into the game and was really under control,” Barnes said. “She didn’t make mistakes and put away a couple kills. She could be that player that definitely makes a difference for us as the season progresses. I think when Nicole (Bardaji) gets through a little bit of the nerves; she will make a big difference. Hope (Ogden) was steady with her passing game [but] will have to work on some things. I think those three gained some valuable experience.”

Getting swept out of the gate day one seemed to light a fire under the Lady Bears as they recorded a pair of sweeps over College of Charleston and VCU.

Baylor’s first match of the day went by smoothly as the Lady Bears won 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-18.)

Part of that was due to the accuracy and power of the front line. Tolbert recorded 16 kills at .714, Campbell had 9 kills at .385 and senior outside hitter Qian Zhang recorded her first-career double-double with 10 kills and 11 assists at .381.

The setter, Ridenour, ran the offense superbly, recording 36 assists and adding four kills.

Tolbert and Campbell had two blocks each, leading at the net.

“It was in the game plan to get the ball to Bri (Tolbert) in the middle and Qian (Zhang) on the outside,” Barnes said. “We knew that Bri could have a huge game in the middle and that Qian would be able to hit over their setter who was blocking on that side. We just told them to be aggressive and Brittany did a good job of finding them at the right times.”

In the second match of the day, the women had to battle from behind to win each of the three sets (25-20, 25-19, 25-18), as VCU scored first each time but never regained the lead.

Baylor defense shined in this game, recording a total of 52 digs and 7 blocks.

“I’m proud of the way our team came out tonight and got the job done, especially serving,” Barnes said. “VCU has some great athletes on their side, but we served them tough and only allowed 23 kills. That was amazing to keep a team like them to that low of a number.”

King attributed a whopping 19 digs while junior transfer Alyssa Dibbern led the net with 4 blocks.

Campbell led the offense with 11 kills, followed by Adom with 10 and Tolbert with 7.

“We can definitely have a lot of information from this weekend that we can build on going into next weekend at home,” Barnes said. “We have a lot of stuff to work on this week in practice.”

The Lady Bears will play their first games in the Ferrell Center this weekend as they host the Fairfield Inn North Baylor Classic Sept. 2 through 3 against McNeese State, University of Texas Pan-American and Northern Colorado.

Baylor begins play 2:30 p.m. Friday against McNeese State.