By Shehan Jeyarajah
Coming off a tough loss against Iowa State, Baylor volleyball will have to regroup for a nationally televised midweek tilt against the defending national champion No. 4 University of Texas. Baylor comes into this match with a record of 8-9, while UT comes in 8-2, including winning all six sets so far in the Big 12.
Baylor exploded into Big 12 play after winning six of the last eight non-conference matches to push back up to .500 for the season at 8-8. The momentum was halted in a tough straight set loss to No. 25 Iowa State in Ames last Saturday.
Senior outside hitter Zoe Adom leads the Bears with 3.07 kills per set. Sophomore outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard has been an all-around player with 2.67 kills per set and 2.65 digs per set. She has missed the last four matches for this team, and is listed as day-to-day for tonight’s match.
The Texas Longhorns will be an unprecedented challenge for this team.
Texas has dominated Baylor historically, especially in the recent past. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 71-2, and also are on a 22-match winning streak against Baylor.
UT returned three AVCA All-Americans for their 2013 season: senior outside hitter Bailey Webster and junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman both earned first team honors, while junior middle blocker Khat Bell earned honorable mention. Eckerman was also named 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year, as well as Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. On top of all the returners, freshman outside hitter Chiaka Ogbogu was named Big 12 Conference Rookie of the Week for the week of Sept. 23.
“We have to prepare hard,” head volleyball coach Jim Barnes said. “We’ve really got to serve tough and play great defense to stop their offense.”
Eckerman leads Texas with 3.35 kills per set, but Webster is right behind with 3.23 kills per set. Ogbogu is third with 1.94 kills per set and is hitting .387 in 16 sets.
Texas lost a tough opener against then No. 11 Hawaii in Honolulu, but went on to win their next four, including two huge wins against No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Stanford. UT then lost to Arizona State, but went on to beat then No. 14 Illinois in Champaign and No. 12 Nebraska.
“I think starting the season against two hard teams prepares us,” sophomore setter Amy Rosenbaum said. “We’re learning to play tough in the Big 12.”
Texas is the favorite to win the Big 12 once again this season.
“We have nothing to lose,” senior defensive specialist Kayci Evans said. “We’re just going in fearless against a really good team.”
Baylor plays UT at 8 p.m. tonight at the Ferrell Center. The match will be nationally broadcast by ESPNU and free shirts will be distributed to the first 350 fans in attendance.