By Cody Soto
Baylor volleyball looks to turn its season around as it hosts tonight’s Big 12 matchup against West Virginia in the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (11-10, 1-5 Big 12) took their fifth straight conference loss on Saturday with a 3-1 decision to Oklahoma and return home looking for their first Big 12 win since Sept. 27 over Kansas State.
“This week is definitely the most important part of our season so far,” head coach Jim Barnes said. “As a team, this can be the best week of our season, and it needs to be. It’s important that we win at home this week.”
Despite the loss, Baylor improved its hitting percentage and limited unforced errors in its matchup against the Sooners. The Bears hit .254 in four sets, 42 points higher than its season average coming into the game.
“We had some players hit at a high level; our outside hitters played well, our middle hitters hit at a high percentage, but we just had too many breakdowns,” Barnes said. “We do feel like we are playing better.”
Baylor also rivaled Oklahoma in kills and digs during the match with the teams only being separated by five or less in each category. The Bears’ blocking, however, needs to greatly improve, Barnes said.
“We are going to have to block much better,” he said. “If we block well, not necessarily block them to the floor, and if we can get some positive touches out of our block, then that will be crucial.”
Accountability is a key word for senior libero Hope Ogden. Limiting errors and stepping up for other teammates is important, she said.
“Hitting and serve receive errors is something that has really hurt us,” Ogden said. “It’s all about being accountable to yourself and to your teammates. If someone else is struggling, we all need to make up for that.”
West Virginia (12-8, 2-4 Big 12) comes into tonight’s match having lost seven of its past nine games and starting Big 12 play with wins over Texas Tech and TCU.
Most recently, the Mountaineers took a four-set loss at home to Kansas after taking the opening set 25-19. The team lost the remaining three sets 25-10, 25-20 and 25-22.
West Virginia brings the Big 12’s current kill leader to Waco who posts an average of 4.79 kills per set. Sophomore Jordan Anderson will butt heads with junior outside hitter Andie Malloy because she is ranked right behind Anderson with 4.01 kills per set. Malloy and the rest of the hitters look to shape up and play proficiently against Anderson and the Mountaineers.
“They are coming with the Big 12 kill leader on their team, so we need to make sure to slow her down and play our game at a really efficient level,” Barnes said.
Baylor and West Virginia split the digging and blocking statistical categories in the Big 12. The Mountaineers hold a fifth place ranking in blocks per set (2.31) opposed to Baylor in eighth place (2.02). However, the Bears dig an average of 15.09 per set, and West Virginia falls behind with 13.52 in a set.
Ogden said the selflessness in the team is really helping in the back row with multiple players earning double-digit digs whether they are back row or outside hitters.
“It’s excellent. You earn your momentum based on your defense, so if all of our players are able to get a high amount of digs, then that just helps us collectively,” Ogden said. “We need to figure out how to putting the ball away and capitalize on our defense.”
Baylor leads the all-time series 6-1 over West Virginia, but the Mountaineers took the last meeting in Waco with a 3-1 win on Nov. 23.
The Bears head into the match with the chance to get back on track this season, and that all starts with a win over West Virginia.
“It’s important than we jump on them fast and not let them gain any momentum early,” Barnes said. “They are a good team and at times can play at a really high level. I think we are close to clicking, but we need to get into a Big 12 match and win it, and that’s how the real click is going to start.”
Baylor faces off against West Virginia in the Ferrell Center tonight at 6 p.m.