Volleyball hosts Baylor Classic, top Family Weekend sporting event

Junior middle hitter Tola Itiola awaits an incoming serve at the Bears' match against West Virginia on Oct. 22, 2014, at the Ferrell Center. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

Baylor volleyball has won seven of its first nine games this season. The Bears host their final home tournament of 2015 against Stephen F. Austin at 7 p.m. tonight at the Ferrell Center.

The Bears look to remain undefeated at home in the Baylor Classic.

Freshman middle hitter Shelly Fanning has enjoyed the experience under first-year head coach Ryan McGuyre, and said one of the goals is to go unbeaten at home this season.

“[Staying undefeated at home] is going to take a lot of hard work and determination,” Fanning said. “We’re going to have to be good at the net and stop a lot of balls.”

McGuyre said winning every home game would be great, but the team can’t look too far ahead. It needs to stay focused on the game at hand, McGuyre said.

“I think, for the girls, [going undefeated] is one of the dreams,” McGuyre said. “We want it to be an atmosphere where we’re in control at all times. It gives us an opportunity to focus on things on our side that we need to improve on.”

The general consensus among the players is that they were pleased with their performance in a hostile environment. The Bears were able to defeat Dayton in the opening game of the Dayton Invitational last weekend.

McGuyre said momentum is great, but the players have to remain focused or they’ll suffer another defeat like they did against Cleveland State on Saturday.

“It was good that we went into Dayton and played in a hostile atmosphere,” McGuyre said. “I like how we responded after losing the first set, but I was disappointed with our energy and effort in the early morning match (versus Cleveland State), the next day.”

McGuyre said it was a good learning experience and it’s better to learn it now than against a conference foe.

One of the brightest spots in the Bears’ lineup over the weekend was Fanning, who was named to the all-tournament team.

McGuyre had high praise for the freshman coming off of her third tournament of the season. McGuyre said Fanning’s good performances throughout the Dayton Invitational didn’t surprise him at all.

“It’s what I expected, but I think she’s ahead of the game,” McGuyre said. “We’ve got some plans for her in 2016 already, that we’re planning for her. She’s got the right mentality … you need those athletes who are going to say ‘I have what it takes and I will get it done.’ She has a healthy self-confidence.”

Fanning said playing in an intimidating environment over the weekend was fun and it built character.

The 6-foot-2 Houston native credited the upperclassmen for keeping everyone calm and pushing the team to play their best and give maximum effort.

Despite the improvements and success, McGuyre believes there’s much improvement to be made on both sides of the ball.

“Each athlete is making strides … but we’re trying to keep our standards really high. There are some marks that we haven’t hit yet that I want us to hit,” McGuyre said.