By Daniel Hill
The Baylor volleyball team entered the Fairfield Inn North Baylor Classic with inexperience and questions. After going undefeated in three matches while playing as many as five freshmen at one time, Baylor volleyball has a platform of optimism to build from.
The team got the best of Texas A&M Corpus Christi on straight sets on Friday. Then they defeated Nevada and Tulane in four sets apiece on Saturday to earn first place in their first tournament of the season.
Head coach Jim Barnes reached a career milestone after Baylor defeated Nevada early Saturday afternoon. After falling to Nevada in the first set 20-25, Baylor won the next three sets 28-26, 25-15 and 25-10 to take the match. With the win, Barnes earned his 300th career victory.
After Baylor had clinched first in the tournament, Barnes downplayed his milestone of 300 career wins.
“That was our third win, the third win this season. Yeah, well I’m going for number four, that’s all I’m thinking about” Barnes said.
Freshman outside hitter Laura Jones was named MVP of the tournament. Jones notched 16 kills for the Bears to help lead the team to victory over Nevada and to clinch first in the tournament. She did earn the individual accolade of tournament MVP, but Jones knows success hinges on playing as a team.
“I’ve never seen us play defense like that. It was just a battle from the beginning to end. I think we did great on that and playing as a team” Jones said.
Freshman Mackenzie Mayo held down the libero position for all three matches.
“We really love what Mayo’s bringing. Our chemistry in the backcourt with her at libero and Hope (Ogden) playing right back and Kayci (Evans) in the middle back, those three really bring some good defense and ball control back to the team” Barnes said.
With senior Torri Campbell, freshman Sam Hill, and others sidelined with injuries, the team needed someone to step up in the third and final game of the tournament. Senior Alyssa Dibbern answered the call with a career high of 19 kills versus Tulane.
“It was nice to see Alyssa [Dibbern] play like I was telling everybody she could play. In this match, she showed what she’s capable of and they couldn’t stop her,” Barnes said.
With two top 25 teams in California and Hawaii looming in the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic this upcoming weekend, Baylor knows it has to continue to hone its craft.
“There’s always room for improvement. I feel like we didn’t play as well as our team could’ve, but I definitely feel like it was a good start to show people how aggressive we are coming out this year and how much better we are going to be,” freshman utility player Adri Nora said.
With tough competition on the horizon, the team is looking forward to a challenge and traveling to the Aloha State.
“I can’t wait,” Jones said. “We are counting down the days.”