Baylor volleyball focused heading into opening weekend

Head coach Ryan McGuyre instructs his players prior to a team practice. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

Nathan Keil | Sports Editor

Nobody is more familiar with Florida State, Baylor volleyball’s opening opponent, than Baylor’s head coach Ryan McGuyre.

Prior to coming to Baylor, McGuyre was the associate head coach for the Seminoles in 2013 and 2014, where he helped lead them to the sweet sixteen in consecutive seasons while compiling an overall record of 56-11 overall and 33-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

McGuyre said, personal connections aside, that Florida State is the perfect measuring stick for his team early in the season.

“If you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” McGuyre said. “It’s a great program, having gone to the Sweet Sixteen last year and both years I was out there. They know what they’re doing.”

McGuyre expects nothing different from this Florida State team as his team prepares for Friday’s match. The Seminoles enter the match ranked No. 15 in the country according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Their physicality will be a challenge for Baylor.

“They’re physical and big,” McGuyre said. “I obviously know Coach [Chris] Poole and their staff. They train extremely well. From a physicality standpoint, it’s going to be a tough match.”

The two schools met on Sept. 8 in Tallahassee, Fla. last season in a match where the Seminoles edged the Bears 15-13 in a decisive fifth set. In that match, redshirt senior outside hitter Katie Saiger recorded a match-high 28 kills in a losing effort.

That feeling hasn’t gone away. Not only is Florida State the first match for Baylor but it also allows the Bears to seek some redemption that loss.

“There’s lot of excitement because the schedule is set so early in the year before the season starts,” Staiger said. “We’ve had our minds and goals set on this since the summer when we started working so it’s cool to have a team that we know we’re going to play. Everything is kind of focused on that first on Florida State.”

Florida State is not the only quality team that Baylor will meet this weekend in the Hampton Inn & Suites Waco North Baylor Invitational. On Saturday, the Bears will meet Illinois State and on Sunday, the University of California-Santa Barbara. The Gauchos swept the Bears three sets to none as part of the Thunderdome Classic last season.

McGuyre expects all three matches to be highly competitive and expects this weekend to be a great learning experience for his team.

“Illinois State has a new coach. That brings a freshness and a [liveliness] with that. Santa Barbara is a team that beat us last year. They have some good transfers, a good outside hitter. Their ball control is always really strong,” McGuyre said. “It feels like the timing is right. We’re healthy and we have a mature team. We have some freshmen that are going to make some significant impacts out there and all we need left is some experience to throw on them out there so this weekend is going to give them an opportunity for that experience.”

With three high profile matches this weekend, Staiger recognizes it is an opportunity to make a statement early on, but it ultimately won’t make-or-break the season.

“It’s definitely important,” Staiger said. “This match shows all the work we’ve put in prior to this. It’s isn’t the end all be all but we’re excited for it because we’ve been preparing at a level that should give us a win.”

Baylor and Florida State will open at 7 p.m. Friday as part of the Hampton Inn & Suites Waco North Baylor Invitational at the Ferrell Center.