By Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
The Baylor Bear volleyball team could intentionally go undefeated this regular season. Obviously winning games is always intentional, yet I find no better word in an attempt to parallel with my recent article that describes how Baylor football could accidentally go 11-1 which, by the way, can still happen.
With Texas being a perennial powerhouse in the Big 12, the Longhorns were the sole team in the conference to warrant any national hype in the offseason. The Bear volleyball team entered their 2019 campaign ranked 20th in the AVCA preseason coaches poll, but few analysts would have pegged the squad to be in the national championship discussion.
Flash forward just three weeks, and Baylor has flipped the script. The senior laden program started 5-0 without playing a single home match. Their opening road trip even featured blowout match wins against three ranked opponents. To add to this, The Bears dominated Houston on Thursday night to remain unbeaten at 6-0. Not only have they gotten off to a spotless start, but the games haven’t even been fair. The green and gold have won a combined 18 sets compared to their opponents’ two.
The hot stretch jolted the Bears from an afterthought to the talk of the country. After moving to 17th in the nation following wins over UCLA and 18th ranked Creighton, Baylor swept Syracuse, dominated 4th ranked Wisconsin in Madison and swept 11th ranked Marquette on the road. This rocketed the squad 12 spots to 5th in the NCAA polls— 20th to 5th in the span of just 10 days.
While I personally find my niche in the realm of football, the sudden surge of volleyball even has this pigskin connoisseur’s attention. For this to work, I had to take an extensive amount of time to dissect the game and figure out what exactly gives this team an edge that could bring home hardware not only in the conference tournament but on the national stage. To further investigate, I find myself writing this article from the floor level of the Ferrell Center where head coach Ryan McGuyre and company celebrate their aforementioned slaughter of the Houston Cougars. As someone who has now seen this team live, they are legitimately unstoppable.
Obviously, top tier teams have depth at multiple positions and talent galore, but Baylor’s success is driven by 2017 Big 12 Freshman of the Year Yossiana Pressley. In week two, the now junior took home AVCA National Player of the Week and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week. She’s now the lone Bear in program history to be given the honor twice in a career. Pressley entered Thursday night’s game ranked 31st in the country in total kills (100), 20th in total points (566), 4th in points per set (6.78) and 2nd in the nation in kills per set (6.25).
Baylor is now projected as a two-seed for the NCAA tournament this coming winter and they currently stand as the only undefeated team in the Big 12. While Texas still sits higher than the Bears in the national polls (3), Baylor is the only other team in the conference in the entire top 25. This means that Pressley and company are currently favored in at least 14 of 16 conference games. Expecting the Bears win those as projected, that only leaves matches against Texas at home and on the road to still factor.
So, what gives Baylor the edge? The squad is 44-17 at home under Ryan McGuyre coming into this season. Considering their dominance at home, we can give Baylor the nod when the Longhorns come rolling in Nov. 20th. For even more optimism, let’s factor in the Bear’s sweep ability since four of their six matches have ended in three sets. Assuming Baylor can do the same thanks to a rowdy crowd in the Ferrell Center, that puts the Bears in a position where they could lose in Austin and still come home with a regular-season crown.
Let’s recap: In our hypothetical world, Baylor finishes with an undefeated record in games where they are favored, Texas suffers a sweep in Waco, and the Bears win at least a set in Austin. In this likely scenario, Baylor would be crowned Big 12 champions for the first time in program history with an overall record of 25-1 in the regular season. With this momentum carrying them into the conference tournament, I have Baylor pegged to win the conference tournament as the one-seed.
So, there you have it. Not only will Baylor football accidentally go 11-1, but Bear volleyball will intentionally win the Big 12. Do not be surprised when the Lady Bears roll into the national championship game as the top team in the nation come December.