By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears volleyball team is in the middle of a brutal stretch of Big 12 Conference play that includes three straight ranked opponents.
Last Saturday, the Bears faced No. 19 Iowa State in Ames and lost. On Tuesday, the No. 9 Texas Longhorns defeated the Bears.
This Saturday the Bears take on No. 15 Kansas State at 7 p.m. at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor has proven that it can beat ranked teams as it defeated No. 25 Cal in August.
Despite two consecutive losses to ranked teams, head coach Jim Barnes sees progress and growth among the team.
“We’re not going to stop competing,” Barnes said. I think that’s what’s great about these kids. They understand that it’s a process of getting better. Being as young as we are, if we just keep working hard we’ll get there. They believe that. That’s why the morale is going to be there because they see that we are getting better every time we play these teams,”
The Baylor volleyball team is loaded with freshmen that have never experienced the ups and downs of the grueling Big 12 conference volleyball schedule.
In fact, Baylor has five players who average over two kills per set and two of them are freshmen, Laura Jones and Thea Munch-Soegaard.
Another freshman, Adri Nora, has been named MVP in two consecutive tournaments.
Senior Alyssa Dibbern leads the team in kills per set and ranks ninth in the Big 12 with 3.05.
The Bears have also been playing defense and their size has been an advantage as they average over 2.47 blockers per set and have four players averaging at least one block per set.
How do the upperclassmen make sure the freshmen stay composed and focused through the course of the season?
“We just keep trying to remind them that this is what Big 12 volleyball is all about,” sophomore Hope Ogden said. I mean you gotta buckle down, stay focused, keep up with your schoolwork, make sure you have good time management. Just stick with it and it’ll pay off.”
In their previous match against Texas, the Bears competed with the No. 9 Longhorns and are looking forward to the challenge of No. 15 Kansas State on Saturday.
“It just shows that we have more in us than other people expected,” junior Zoe Adom said.
“We’re here to prove something to everybody else and that we can play volleyball. We’re here to take over the Big 12. It’s a part of the game. I mean we’ve all been there before. We’ve all lost and we’ve all won. Other teams are going to come at us but we just have to prove that we can play with them”.
Even though the Bears are 0-2 in conference so far, the improvement that comes with each match isn’t lost on Barnes and the Bears are looking to bounce back versus Kansas State this weekend.
“We need to because we have another great one coming on Saturday,” Barnes said.
“We also need to start getting into the top three or two in our conference. Overall, that’s what we’re doing is working them to be in the top three in our conference. We have the number two-ranked team in our conference coming this Saturday, so it’s our opportunity to beat these guys.”
The resilience that the Bears have shown so far this season has the team believing it can go to NCAA tournament again this season.
“These girls compete,” Barnes said. That’s what we really like about this team. They understand we are playing the best teams in the conference and if we can just keep getting better through this experience we’ll get what we need as far as making the NCAA tournament. We’ve got to compete against these teams and if we can upset one of them then that puts us in the tournament so the morale is there. It’s just can we get the job done and close out some games.”
Facing their third ranked team in three games, the Bears look to earn a crucial conference win and gather some momentum for the season on Saturday against No. 15 Kansas State.