By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
No. 1 Baylor volleyball brings their undefeated record to Ames, Iowa and Fort Worth this week. This will be the first time the Bears will face consecutive road matches in over a month.
After another 2-0 week, two Baylor players received Big 12 Weekly Honors. Junior outside hitter Yossiana Pressley continued her domination of the season, leading the Big 12 in kills per set at 5.67. The Cypress junior earned her third Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award, second consecutive, despite nursing an injury, which head coach Ryan McGuyre confirmed postgame Saturday.
Junior setter Hannah Lockin also picked up hardware this week, becoming the first setter to earn Defensive Player of the Week since Kansas State’s Katie Brand four years ago. Lockin posted 18 digs across two games and racked up her sixth double-double this season against K-State on Saturday. She also matched her career high with six blocks against the Wildcats.
Heading forward, the Bears face a nearly-ranked Iowa State team that received votes in the AVCA poll this week. Baylor has not faced a ranked opponent since No. 13 Hawaii back on Sept. 22. The Cyclones represent a challenge to the Bears as they come off two sweeps against conference foes. Their last loss was against No. 6 Texas on Sept. 25, where they managed to take a set from the Longhorns.
McGuyre said they will be a good test for the team on Wednesday night.
“They’re playing great,” McGuyre said. “I think they stubbed their toe their first couple of matches at the beginning of the year, and they played Texas really tough. They’ve won nine of their last ten [matches], and they’re low error. That’s why we were successful early on, so we’ll just need to be able to execute.”
The Cyclones feature four players with at least two kills per set, allowing their offense to move quickly and not focus on setting up any key attacker. Redshirt sophomore opposite Marieke van der Mark said the team has been honing in on their defense before Wednesday’s match.
“They have a very driven, fast offense, but so do we,” Van der Mark said. “We’ve worked hard on our blocking this morning already, and we’ll work on that this afternoon to just try to shut that down, shut them down so we can get our offense and our defense going fast.”
One more reason for the Bears to smile this week comes in Lockin’s homecoming. Lockin is a native of Des Moines, Iowa, and whenever the team travels to Ames, the Lockin Fan Club comes out to support their favorite setter. Fifth-year senior middle blocker Shelly Stafford said it’s great to play for her in front of her friends and family.
“It’s fun. It’s always fun to see Hannah’s face just light up when she sees all her family and friends,” Stafford said. “It’s just fun to kind of play for her. This is her home and we get to go play with her and for her.”
After they finish off their trip to Iowa, the team will head to Fort Worth to take on TCU. The Horned Frogs stand at No. 7 in the Big 12 for now, but there is optimism an hour and a half north of Waco: setter McKenzie Nichols received Big 12 Rookie of the week honors after knocking 59 assists against Texas Tech last week.
The Bears are optimistic about their chances during the rest of Big 12 play. McGuyre said it was a dream of theirs to finish the season without dropping a set, and while that seems wildly unreasonable, they’ve only lost two sets across 13 matches.
“Sometimes you’ve got to redream the dream, and we get to do that for conference,” McGuyre said. “So, it’s ‘All right, let’s go all conference without dropping a set.’ Again, that’s really hard to do, because there’s a lot of great teams in conference. So, we can’t think ahead […], but we can think about one set at a time for Iowa State [and TCU] coming out and making sure we’re good for that.”
Baylor faces Iowa State at 8 p.m. Wednesday night at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa before coming back down to Texas for a match against TCU at 1 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth.