Libero position still in the air for the Bears


By Daniel Hill

Sports Writer

For the last two seasons, the Baylor volleyball team has made it to the NCAA tournament.

The incoming freshman class is ranked as the No. 16 recruiting class nationally.

Like most Baylor sports, volleyball is on the rise.

“We expect to be in that tournament [NCAA] every year,” Baylor head coach Jim Barnes said. “Our focus now is really to be the best team that we can be and if we are then we’ll go deep in that tournament.”

One of the most crucial positions in all of volleyball is the libero position. As the volleyball team grinds through two-a-days, one of the main tasks for Barnes is to figure out who will actually be the libero.

As it currently sits, there are three girls vying for the position: junior Kayci Evans, freshman Mackenzie Mayo and sophomore Hope Ogden.

“They’ve got to have serve-receive skills and being able to pass is number one with the libero,” Barnes said. “They have to anchor that serve-receive. They are really the coach and the anchor of that part of it on the floor. They have to communicate well and pass extremely well. The second phase is that they’ve got to be great defenders where they’re flying to the ball and able to get the ball up. The third part of that is their leadership skills: how vocal they are, how much energy they bring to the team. Those are the elements that make a good libero.”

Evans agreed with what her coach said.

“I’d say what makes a good libero, obviously would be passing and digging skills,” Evans said. “You want your best

defensive player to be the libero. But I’d also have to say someone who is always talking. They are always on the court. They’re just as important as the setter because they are running everybody on the team.”

As far as the strengths of the other two fighting for the position, Mayo and Ogden defined what they believe their strengths are on the court.

Mayo sides on the specificity of passing and reading the hitters and defense while Ogden is willing to do whatever needs to be done, as long as she is on the court.

Three players competing for a single position offers Barnes with both depth and a decision.

“We have three or four girls really competing for defensive positions, and that libero position is still a little open,” Barnes said. “Mackenzie Mayo is a freshman who’s really got a lot of experience at that position. She’s at the front of the line, I think, with that position. Hope Ogden is right there. Hope’s doing a great job and she’s going to compete for that and other defensive positions and so is Kayci Evans. They are all competing for it.”

No matter who the libero is, ultimately all three women in the hunt for the position will have unique roles on the team.

“They are all competing for it,” Barnes said. “If they’re not playing libero, they’ll be in the back court [substituting] for a tall girl through the game, so they’ll all have roles.”

Chemistry will be the glue that holds this 2012 squad together.

With the success of the veterans and the bright future of the freshmen, an aim for the top unites them all.

“We have a good balance between veterans and underclassmen so hopefully we’ll have good leadership, good energy and spirit from the younger lead,” Ogden said.

While the balance is there with the women as a team, Barnes notices the balance coming together with both aspects of the game.

“We’ve always been a really good defensive team, one of the best in the country,” Barnes said. “I think we are getting more offense at each position so balance with the offense and defense is going to help us, I think, to win more games.”

The Baylor volleyball team will host a tournament at the Ferrell Center this weekend, Aug. 24-25.

The Bears’ first game will be against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 7 p.m Aug. 24 at the Ferrell Center.

Saturday will feature a pair of games for the team.

Baylor will face Nevada at 12:30 and then will end the night against Tulane at 7 p.m.