Baylor volleyball grinds out win against Oklahoma

Junior libero Jana Brusek dives to save the point in route to a 3-2 win over Washington State on September 17 at the Ferrell Center. Photo credit: Timothy Hong

Baylor volleyball is off to one of its best starts in school history. Included in this start was a brutal and tough four-set win over Oklahoma on Saturday 22-25, 25-11, 28-26, 27-25, their first win over the Sooners since the 2011 season, a milestone the Bears are well aware of.

“I think we’re in a new era of Baylor volleyball. We’re never going to have this exact same team again,” said junior middle hitter Camryn Freiberg. “We’re trying to leave a legacy here, not just in volleyball but how we are living our lives.”

Baylor concluded its initial run through the conference with the win against the Sooners. The Bears finished 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play at the Ferrell Center, which is important as they will play five of their eight remaining conference contests on the road.

“The team is really coming together, and we’re beating teams that we haven’t beat in long time,” sophomore outside hitter Ashley Fritcher said. “I think we’re turning heads. It’s a good thing.”

Baylor, perhaps still a little worn out from their five-set win over Iowa State on Wednesday night, struggled to establish any kind of rhythm on the attack or on the serve in the opening set. This resulted in uncharacteristic errors on the serve receive and in the team’s communication.

They exchanged points and traded leads six times. As the set played on, Oklahoma’s play got cleaner and crisper. Ultimately, these errors would be the downfall for Baylor in the first set as they dropped the opener, 25-22. Baylor was only 13 for 41 on attacks with eight errors, including an extremely quiet three kills for redshirt junior outside hitter Katie Staiger.

“They weren’t dialed in that first set, and that was discouraging to see,” said head coach Ryan McGuyre.

That weariness and lack of focus didn’t last long as Baylor came out firing in the second set, establishing themselves offensively with a 12-5 spurt to begin the set. The Bears would continue to dictate play in in the second set with the help of repeated and relentless kills from Frieberg. After the quick start, Baylor never looked back on their way to a 25-11 win in the second set.

“[Frieberg] cleaned up the net so well today and did a lot of things that won’t show up in the stat line,” McGuyre said. “Instinctively she gets her hands on balls, digs balls out of the net and scrambling. She extended a lot of rallies that you don’t usually get from the middle. It’s a testament to her work ethic. She believes at 5’11 that she’s the best middle in the country and we aren’t going to tell her any differently.”

The third set mirrored the first with its back and forward nature. Similarly, Oklahoma began to take control, building a three-point lead at 20-17, but Baylor refused to go away quietly as they rallied to take a 24-23 lead. With the set tied at 24 apiece, won a key challenge to keep their hopes alive. In a set that featured 13 ties, Baylor managed to pull out a gritty 28-26 win in the third, in large part to the play of Fritcher and Frieberg at the net.

The fourth set remained right on par with the intense, back and forth struggle for control that sets one and three had. After facing a set point at 25-24, Baylor rallied once again to take the final three points, the last on a perfect placement ball by senior setter Morgan Reed in the back right corner of the court, securing the win for the Bears.

With the win over the Sooners, Baylor notched its 18th win, surpassing its total from last season, and now sits alone in third place of the Big 12 behind Texas and Kansas. Baylor may be entering the most difficult portion of their season, as it will now hit the road for the majority of the second half of the conference circuit, including the next three games.

Baylor will look to continue to get big contributions from other players outside of Staiger like they did on Saturday from Freiberg, Fritcher and sophomore outside hitter Aniah Philo, according to McGuyre. Freiberg finished with 14 kills, Fritcher 13 and Philo 15, all career highs.

Baylor will also need to rely on the stellar play of its defense as it looks to maintain its success on the road.

“Our defense has to travel,” McGuyre said. “When we go on the road, we have to take our defense with us. That means tough serves and digs that we can turn into kills.”

The first stop on the three-game road swing will be on Saturday against the Kansas State Wildcats. The match is set to start at 7 p.m .