By Collin Bryant | Sports Writer
While Baylor’s football program continues to struggle in a football-dominated region, Baylor sports such as men’s golf, women’s volleyball and soccer are having successful seasons.
In the south, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference (SEC) football control the region’s culture interest and and in recent years, the Bears had a seat at the table. Baylor played in bowl games the last four years and was conference champions back-to-back in 2013 and 2014.
However, through turmoil and coaching changes caused by Baylor’s sexual assault scandal, the Bears have faltered this season. With a 1-9 record, head coach Matt Rhule’s transition into the program has not gone smoothly.
After the team started 0-3, Rhule said during this time of transition, the most important element is ensuring his players are getting better.
“To me that’s really the most important thing to building a great program is developing player accountability and player discipline, and they are holding each other accountable,” Rhule said. “That was really nice to see for me.”
Although football has struggled to find success on the field, the rest of Baylor’s fall athletic programs have given Baylor Nation plenty to cheer about.
Baylor soccer hosted the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 10, beating Rice 3-2. The Bears are about to take on USC, the defending national champions on Friday in the second round.
Before beating Rice last weekend, Baylor won the Big 12 championship, clawing past teams such as Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU, all of which also made the NCAA Tournament. While soccer has not had a coaching change, it too has battled injuries. Baylor lost junior forward Jackie Crowther, who led the team in goals early in the season to a knee injury. The Bears also lost redshirt sophomore Hannah Parrish to injury for the 2017 season, giving freshman Jennifer Wandt the starting goal keeper position.
After winning the Big 12 Tournament, head coach Paul Jobson said the girls are entering the NCAA Tournament with a championship mindset.
“I think it’s just the mentality they’ve had for most of the season. That can’t be something that changes as we go into the postseason when we get to the NCAA Tournament,” Jobson said. “We talked about it entering the Big 12’s … here’s another game … every game we’ve played is like a championship match because of what we play for. We play for God and we play for each other, and that doesn’t change no matter what logos are on the field or if there’s a trophy at the end of it.”
Baylor men’s golf had a successful fall season, starting with two top five finishes, as well as a win in its last fall tournament of the semester the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate. Most of the men’s golf tournaments are typically in the spring to prepare them for the conference and national championship in March and April. However, the men’s team traditionally will compete in several fall events to start the team’s preparation for when the season picks up.
Men’s golf has steadily been on the rise since head coach Mike McGraw took over in the fall 2015. The team has been to the national championship the last two years, losing in the quarterfinals to Oklahoma in 2016.
After the team’s first win of the 2017 season this past week at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate, McGraw said his team completely met his expectations to start the season.
“I don’t think you can’t ask much more of a team other than to get into contention,” McGraw said. “They did it every single tournament and they finally got the job done.”
Baylor volleyball is currently having one of its best seasons in team history. The Bears reached No. 17 in the country on Nov. 13, their highest ranking in program history.
The team is led by senior outside hitter Katie Staiger, who earlier this season became the Baylor all-time kills leader in the rally scoring era, shattering Katie Sanders’ (2006-09) record of 1,547. Head coach Ryan McGuyre has seen freshman outside hitter Yossiana Pressley emerge as the next big hitter for the Bears. Pressley led the way in a sweep of then No. 11 Kansas Jayhawks on Nov. 11 with 19 kills on a .410 attack effort. The win over Kansas was Baylor’s first since 2012 and its fourth win over a ranked opponent this season.
With a record of 22-5, the Bears are poised to be a real contender for the national championship as the regular season comes to an end Nov. 25 against the Texas Longhorns.