Bears fight valiantly, but fall to Longhorns

Senior setter Morgan Reed sets the ball to her teammate on Wednesday at the Ferrell Center against the Texas Longhorns. The Bears fell in four sets, 3-1.

Baylor volleyball put its 9-1 home record on the line Wednesday night against the No.4-ranked Texas Longhorns. Baylor, who was coming off a win over TCU last week, looked to stay hot and end their 28-match losing streak to the Longhorns. Unfortunately, despite a valiant fight, Baylor fell in four sets to the Longhorns, 21-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18.

The strengths of both teams were on full display as the first set went back and forth. After Baylor jumped out to a 4-1 lead behind two kills from redshirt junior outside hitter Katie Staiger, the Longhorns began to settle in. Using their power and their size to their advantage, the Longhorns surged ahead to take a 16-14 lead.

However, Baylor would begin to work its way around the taller Longhorn block and go on an 11-5 run, including two timely kills from Staiger, to take the first set 25-21. Staiger finished with 10 kills in the opening set.

After dropping the first set, the Longhorns appeared rejuvenated in the second set, jumping all over Baylor and not only building a comfortable lead, but sustaining it. Baylor made uncharacteristic errors on serve receive and had a much more difficult time maneuvering around the taller Longhorn block.

“We’re an undersized team, but I think that we have a lot of fight,” said senior setter Morgan Reed. “Moving forward, we’ll emphasize the block and where to place balls, and know what hitters are on and where to hit in each situation.”

Texas found great success not only in their attacking, but also by timely tips over the Baylor block. The Bears did fight back and chipped away at the Longhorns’ double-digit lead but would ultimately yield the second set 25-17.

Baylor began the third set with more ease as it went back and forth with the Longhorns. The Bears began to find the rhythm they had in the first set, but the success was short-lived. As the set progressed, the Longhorns only got stronger. Perfectly placed serves and tips as well as costly errors by the Bears helped Texas take control of the match and finish out the third set, 25-17.

The Longhorns and Bears would go back and forth exchanging points to begin the fourth set. After Texas used a mini 5-2 run to go up 12-9, the Bears clawed their way back into the match to even recapture the lead at 14-13. From that point forward, the Longhorns proved to be too tough, and finished Baylor off 25-18 in the fourth.

Even though Baylor dropped the match, the Bears continue to show the resiliency and fight that has helped this team become truly competitive.

“Even though it hurts, to be emotionally invested like that with a big team like Texas says a lot,” Reed said. “I think we learned how to dig off of big hitters, and they hit a lot of shots we haven’t seen before in the Big 12, and so that’s going to help us in the long run.”

Texas is the second top 10 opponent to beat Baylor this month, but the difficult matches continue to shape and give this Bears team confidence.

“I think there were some things that we weren’t as consistent as we would have liked to be at the end, but definitely games we could be winning,” Staiger said. “Texas came in ranked No. 4, we beat them one set and could hang with them every other set. So disappointed we didn’t finish some of those sets, but for me, it says that we can beat anyone.”

In the end, Texas, who has set the standard for excellence in Big 12 volleyball, made a few more big plays and leaves Waco with a hard fought victory over the Bears. Texas, now 14-2, 6-0 in Big 12 play, relied heavily on their balanced attack at the net. Freshman outside hitter Micaya White contributed 16 kills, while senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame added 12 kills. Staiger led the Bears with 25 kills.

Baylor drops to 15-6, 3-2 in conference play as it gets ready to hit the road for matches against West Virginia and Iowa State.

“It’s the most important match of the week. Our season is on the line for every match. We’re not a physical team, so we have to be able to out execute,” said head coach Ryan McGuyre. “West Virginia is a good team. They beat some Pac-12 teams, they’ve got some good wins at home, so if we want to make a run through the tournament, we have to take care of teams in conference. Every match going forward is going to be a battle for us.”