By Cody Soto
Baylor volleyball set Big 12 play aside Tuesday night as they took a 3-1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the Ferrell Center 25-18, 25-20, 24-26, 25-12.
The Bears (11-9, 1-4 Big 12) used a strong hitting percentage (.265) to put away big points to roll over the Ragin’ Cajuns (15-6, 5-5 Mid-American Conference). Baylor is coming off of a rough four-set loss to Kansas Friday night with a .195 hitting effort.
“We definitely needed to start out fast and work out butts off in the middle of a set to keep our lead and not let up,” junior setter Andie Malloy said.
Malloy led all hitters with 17 kills and 20 digs in the win. Sophomore middle hitter Tola Itiola slammed down 10 kills at the net and added a block for the Bears. Senior outside hitter Nicole Bardaji had an impressive match with eight kills and a .500 hitting effort.
Junior setter Amy Rosenbaum racked up 25 assists and sophomore setter Morgan Reed chipped in 19. The Bears used the 6-2 system once again and were able to capitalize with three hitters in the front row.
“The 6-2 system is great for our team because I feel we have a lot of versatile pin hitters,” Malloy said. “Nicole was going off on the right side, and it was nice to get splits on the blocks through the middle hitter.”
Junior outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard had 11 digs from the back row and senior libero Hope Ogden led the Bears with 12.
The Bears edged the Ragin’ Cajuns with six blocks at the net to lead in that category for the first time since the team’s 3-1 win over Northwestern State on Sept. 16.
“We’ve been working a lot in practice on blocking, so we just transferred that in the game by diving and reading the other hitters well,” Bardaji said.
The Bears rolled to a 6-2 start to start out the opening set, but they allowed the Ragin’ Cajuns to get back in the game with several defensive errors. After only having a one-point lead, Baylor took a 3-0 run to force a Louisiana-Lafayette timeout at 14-10. The Bears continued to lead for the rest of the match but were held to two set points with a service error and pass receive error. An error by Louisiana-Lafayette gave Baylor the 25-18 first set win.
“We had really good connections with our setters tonight, so it was really great to get a win after a few losses in a row,” Bardaji said. “It’s good for our team so we can bounce back on the road for Oklahoma this weekend.”
The second set started out a lot differently. Both teams exchanged the first 12 points 6-6, and the Bears used a 7-0 run with Munch-Soegaard at the service line to force Louisiana-Lafayette to call a timeout at 13-6. The Ragin’ Cajuns used a 4-0 to cut the lead until the run was broken up by a back row kill from Malloy. A block by Hill gave Baylor the second set 25-20.
The Bears struggled in the third set after an early 5-2 lead. The Ragin’ Cajuns went on a run to take the lead and force a Baylor timeout at 16-11. The Bears once again let Louisiana-Lafayette on a small run to push their lead to seven points. After that, Baylor took a commanding 9-2 run to tie the set 22-22 and give them a chance for the sweep. Back-to-back errors by the team gave the Ragin’ Cajuns the set 26-24.
“We just lost focus and that’s when we gave up runs,” head coach Jim Barnes said. “It was nothing about our skills, but it was about our focus level. That’s how we let Louisiana-Lafayette back in the game at times.”
Baylor took control of the fourth set early and jumped out to a 7-2 start before a Louisiana-Lafayette timeout was called. A 7-2 run was created by the Bears to push their lead to 15-6 after a solo block at the net by Richburg. Baylor kept their cool and used numerous mistakes by their opponent to easily take the set 25-12 and close the match with a 3-1 win.
“The team needed this win to give us some feedback that our work is getting better and encourage the team when we get back at it in practice,” Barnes said. “We understand what we need to do to win matches, and slowly the team is learning how to execute that. It was a good win and we can hopefully create some momentum out of it.”
Baylor resumes Big 12 play at 7 p.m. on Saturday when it travels to play the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday in Norman, Okla.