By Krista Pirtle
The Lady Bears (4-1) took the Ferrell Center court Saturday for their second match of the Fairfield Inn North Baylor Classic against The University of Texas Pan-American (1-5) and finished victoriously, sweeping UTPA 3-0 (25-9, 25-19, 25-19.)
The Lady Bears recorded 43 kills, led by No. 21 senior middle blocker Briana Tolbert with 11 at .579, followed by No. 16 freshman utility Adri Nora with eight at .353 and No. 5 freshman outside hitter Nicole Bardaji with her career high of eight as well at .538.
“We have a strategy where we try to set the pins more in these games,” Bardaji said. “We were just trying to stay more consistent and hit it high. Today was really playing together when things got tough.”
Baylor held UTPA to only 20 kills for the match. No. 8 senior libero Allison King led the way defensively with 17 digs and No. 10 sophomore defensive specialist Kayci Evans followed with 12.
The rally was rolling in the first match and a half, but towards the end of the second set, the roll turned into a wobble.
“Our defense was good, especially in the first half,” Baylor head coach Jim Barnes said. “Then it got a little crazy as we were putting in a lot of different players, so that was one thing we talked about. [We have to] keep the standard of defense up because it was so good the first game and a half.”
Baylor got the experience it was looking for with the playing time received. Potential was seen in the offensive attacks of both Berdaji and Nora while Evans stepped up defensively.
“We got some good performance out of Nicole,” said Barnes. “She has been playing very well in practice. I thought Kayci came out and played real well. She doesn’t get to play a whole lot. Adri is one we keep waiting to see. She could possibly be a real special player.”
With the underclassmen stepping up into their roles, Tolbert stepped in to fill her spot as a leader on the team.
“She’s becoming a dominant player,” Barnes said. “I think she could have an all Big 12 season.”
Winning is great, but the taste becomes even sweeter when you enjoy your teammates as well.
The chemistry on this team could be the fuel that launches this team to a great season.
“We love each other so much,” Bardaji said. “Celebrating after kills and stuff is awesome. Everyone gets so live after every single point. We’re excited just to work hard and try and get those wins.”
The Lady Bears’ final match of the tournament is tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Ferrell Center against the Northern Colorado Bears.