By Cody Soto
Baylor athletics garnered a program-best eight Big 12 titles in the 2014-2015 season, and Baylor volleyball looks to join the elite ranks next season under first-year head coach Ryan McGuyre.
The team was one of only two across the board that had a losing record this year, prompting a coaching change and a new motivation for the program. The team finished in eighth place in Big 12 standings and finished the year with a 14-17 record. Injuries crippled the team in 2014, taking out several key players at the net. With the loss of size and athleticism, the Bears suffered its second-straight losing season.
However, the Bears return a majority of their roster, including five seniors for the 2015 season, and the veterans’ expertise could make a difference.
The biggest weapon Baylor brings back is senior outside hitter Andie Malloy. The All-Big 12 selection recorded 447 kills and averaged 3.89 kills per set to lead the team in that category. She also had the most digs on the team, totalling 348 during her first season on the court for Baylor.
The Bears have to include Malloy in the system and not solely rely on her athleticism and all-around abilities to win games. The talent that Baylor brings back can grow into a more complete team with the new freshmen and experienced underclassmen.
“With the tempo and rhythm, I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet,” Malloy said. “But if we keep working hard, we’ll eventually reach there. If we play to the best of our ability, we can pull out some big wins this season.”
The back row will be run by three very skilled liberos: senior Mackenzie Mayo, and sophomores Jana Brusek and Ashley Myer. Mayo returns to the roster after sitting out last season, and Brusek and Myer received significant playing time last season. The sophomore duo accounted for 437 digs in their first season in a Baylor uniform.
Senior Amy Rosenbaum returns at the setter position along with junior Morgan Reed. In the spring season, both setters were rotated rather equally in the lineup. Reed will be in a good position to take offer after Rosenbaum’s graduation, but the leadership will come from Rosenbaum in her final season.
Junior middle hitter Tola Itiola returns at the net and could potentially earn All-Big 12 honors in her third season, which all starts with her consistency and ability to dominate and defend the front line.
Senior outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard can have a breakout season after fully recovering from a bad injury her sophomore season. That inevitably affected her performance last season.
Will Baylor volleyball join in the elite ranks with Final Four contender and Big 12 opponent Texas, or be able to compete with two-time defending national champion Penn State next season? Probably not. Maybe in five to 10 years from now? Possibly. However, time is not a factor for Baylor volleyball.
“If there’s one thing I take great pride in it’s that the teams that I’ve coached have finished strong,” McGuyre said. “They’ve played their best of volleyball at the end of the year.”
McGuyre is determined to build a different part of the program and allow it to sink in over the next few seasons. It will not be easy, but the Bears are ready to take their level of play to a different level.
“The expectation is that we want to win a national championship,” McGuyre said. “We want to do something to the best of our ability for something that is bigger than ourselves. The next day, we wake up and try to win the championship again and hope we’re one degree better than yesterday.”