No. 1 Bears take a breath before Texas Tech matchup

Freshman middle blocker Kara McGhee makes a hit against Texas State in Baylor’s sweep of the Bobcats on Sept. 24 at the Ferrell Center. McGhee was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after her performance against TCU in the Bears’ sweep of the Horned Frogs. McGhee had eight blocks on Saturday, 11 on the week as Baylor also swept Iowa State. Kristen DeHaven | Multimedia Journalist

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

After the midweek bye, No. 1 Baylor volleyball gets back into action Saturday against the rival Red Raiders.

Prior to the bye, Baylor had four matches that tested their competence. The team was able to get out of each of those matches, not only with wins, but with sweeps. Head volleyball coach Ryan McGuyre said his team was able to use the time off to get back on track.

“It’s been great to have this week,” McGuyre said. “We used it to just work on some things that were just not as sharp as they have been and get back to some fundamentals, and it also let us work on some things we know we need to keep adding and improve upon for conference and most certainly for postseason.”

After having a break for the first time since before conference play, senior libero Tara Wulf said the team is ready to go for the next week.

“It’s always nice to have a break because you get to train. Our best training does come in the games, but this whole week of long, good training practices is good for our next two matches,” Wulf said.

The Bears host Texas Tech Saturday and will then travel to Austin for a matchup with No. 4 Texas Wednesday. According to the RPI rnakings, this might be the hardest two match stretch for Baylor since early September.

The Red Raiders come to town on a 10-2 run, their only losses coming in a sweep to then-No. 6 Texas and a five-setter to TCU at the beginning of the month. Their featured player is senior outside hitter Emily Hill, who is averaging 4.37 kills per set this season.

Kara McGee received her third weekly conference honor Monday after being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. The freshman middle blocker posted 11 blocks last week to lead the Big 12 in the category. She also set a career-high with eight blocks against the Horned Frogs Saturday. McGuyre said he was proud of McGhee, who joined the team last spring as the highest recruited player in school history.

“She can jump up. You know, she’s a strong, tall athlete. [She’s] already a great blocker that we’re trying to even sharpen more,” McGuyre said. “[She] hits hard, contacts high; but Kara, like a lot of the rest of our athletes, just is really attracted to the values and principles we have here at Baylor.”

McGee was the No. 6 ranked player coming out of high school in San Antonio, but McGuyre stressed that the ranking isn’t what’s important. It’s the character of the team that drives their success.

“I don’t lose any sleep over recruit rankings and where people are ranked. We’ve got a lot of girls who weren’t in the Top 100 on our roster,” McGuyre said. “The goal is to build a team, not just build an all-star roster of hyped up players; and I don’t think we have the divas or prima donnas on this team. We’ve just got a lot of girls who want to work hard, and have good engines and motors, and that’s what’s important.”

Wulf, another player who has earned Defensive Player of the Week honors this year, said she has been impressed with the quick transition Kara made to start the year.

“She knows her identity. She knows how good she can be with the same humble spirit that she has and just constantly wanting to grow and learn and trust. She’s just an amazing human and volleyball player,” Wulf said.

Baylor plays Texas Tech at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN+.