By Cody Soto
Baylor volleyball completes its non-conference schedule with a three-game road trip in San Antonio.
Going into the weekend, Baylor (9-2) is on a five-game winning streak after Tuesday’s four-set win over Northwestern State at home and four road match wins. The Bears won the Colonials Challenge in Washington, D.C., last Saturday behind outside hitters MVP Katie Staiger and all-tournament selection Andie Malloy.
Baylor leads the Big 12 in kills (14.62 per set), assists (13.65 per set), and digs (17.20 per set). The Bears hold a .228 attack percentage and average 2.19 blocks per set so far this season.
Baylor will open up the University of Texas at San Antonio Classic Friday afternoon against Louisiana State University (2-4) at noon. Under head coach Fran Flory, the Tigers have been on the road for all their matches so far this season.
LSU’s lone pair of wins was won in four sets on Aug. 29 and Sept. 12 respectively. The Tigers are recently coming off of a 4-set loss to No. 7 Florida State in the Florida State Invitational. Although the Tigers come in with a losing record, LSU has three losses on the season from Top 25 teams, including No. 14 San Diego and No. 8 Purdue.
LSU comes into Friday’s match with a .226 hitting effort and averages 12.7 kills per set. The Tigers are led by middle blocker Briana Holman, who has posted 85 kills in six matches and has a .393 attacking percentage. Outside hitter Cati Leak also leads the offense with 78 kills and a .239 attacking percentage, respectively.
Leading the Tiger defense is defensive specialist Haley Smith with 4.08 digs per set and 98 digs on the season. LSU also posts 2.2 blocks and 14.1 digs per set as a team.
Baylor and LSU will also square off again on Saturday at noon after Middle Tennessee State dropped out of the tournament at the last minute. The Bears fell to the Tigers in five sets last season at the Flo Hyman Collegiate in Houston and trail the all-time series 3-2.
Baylor will wrap up non-conference play against UTSA (2-6) Saturday at 5 p.m. The Bears beat the Roadrunners in four sets during the 2013 season and lead the all-time series 17-3.
UTSA will play its first matches at home after going 2-6 on the road and will start the tournament on a five-game losing streak. Marquette recently defeated the Roadrunners in four sets during the Marquette Invitational last weekend. UTSA’s only wins on the season took place in College Station with a four-set win over Tulane on Aug. 29 and a five-set decision over Texas A&M Aug. 30.
UTSA holds a .178 attack percentage with 12.5 kills per set in the 2014 season. Outside hitter Dempsey Thornton leads the Roadrunners with 3.12 kills per set, and outside hitter Kylie Schott enters the tournament with a .345 hitting effort.
Defensively, UTSA stands behind defensive specialist Annie Kunes who has 138 digs this season, averaging 5.52 per set. The Roadrunners also have 2.1 blocks per set with Schott leading the way at the net.
Although Baylor is the only team to come into the tournament with a winning record, they are not letting it affect the mentality of the team.
“We are learning a ton each match, but they’re going to be three really tough matches,” head coach Jim Barnes said. “We are playing an LSU team that is really good, and UTSA is receiving votes as well. Hopefully, we can get everyone healthy.”
Junior outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard is not expected to play for another week, and junior outside hitter Laura Jones is still recovering from a condition that could keep her from playing as well.
Jones was able to play in Tuesday’s match against Northwestern State where she posted six kills and 13 digs.
Baylor will use this time of recovery to help prepare them for another tournament weekend before travelling to Manhattan, Kan. for their first Big 12 conference match on Sept. 27.
“We’ve been on the road a lot and had a lot of games lately, so it will be good to be able to recover this week and come back strong,” Staiger said. “We are getting real close to being fully healthy, so recovery is really important right now.”
All games will be played at the Convocation Center in San Antonio.
Live audio coverage will be available at baylorbears.com/allaccess. Live play-by-play stat coverage can be found on UTSA’s website at at goutsa.com.