By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
With No. 4 Texas looming in the horizon, No. 1 Baylor volleyball continued their hot streak with a 25-19, 25-21, 25-19 victory over Texas Tech, completing their 10th sweep of the season and remaining undefeated.
Coming off the midweek bye, the Bears notched their 16th straight win of the season Saturday against the Red Raiders, who held the third place spot in the Big 12 standings coming into the game. Baylor head volleyball coach Ryan McGuyre said the midweek rest helped his team to jump into the second half of conference strong.
“We just felt very confident and in control of the match. If you know anything about volleyball, momentum can shift quickly. So I’m not sure you want to be confident, but just feel like you can turn it on,” McGuyre said. “Offensively, we weren’t as sharp our first two sets, but our block saved us.”
Baylor started the match off in the usual fashion, with an even 2-2 start before a 10-2 run put Texas Tech out of reach. A timeout wasn’t enough for the Red Raiders to spark some offense as they eventually dropped the first 25-19.
The second set saw some rockier play as Baylor got out to a 15-10 lead, but let it slip away to an even 17. McGuyre chose to call a timeout, pulling his team out of their slump and into a 5-2 run and a TTU timeout.
Out of the break, the Bears coasted to a 25-21 set two win. Within some of the timeouts today, McGuyre said he had seniors Braya Hunt and Shelly Stafford leading the team because he felt they could sometimes motivate the team better than he could.
“I trust Braya,” McGuyre said. “When we play great, it is because of her great heart, her servant heart. I have zero reservations about giving timeouts to Braya [Hunt] or Shelly [Stafford]. Because they’re leaders. Because they’re shepherds too, and the shepherds know their sheep. They know who needs the encouragement and who needs a kick in the butt.”
In the final frame, things started off well for Baylor as sophomore opposite hitter Marieke van der Mark cleaned up a massive kill. The Bears stayed hot, gaining a 15-9 lead before a media timeout interrupted their 7-2 run. The rest of the match was fairly drama-free, as both teams scored 10 each to finish the match 25-19.
The Ferrell Center rocked their pink looks Saturday on “Dig Pink” day, as 2,017 fans showed up to support the Bears. The fans have been growing in number since McGuyre showed up to town five years ago and he said the winning and the fan support goes hand in hand.
“I think it just shows where our program has come … and it really caught my heart singing the Baylor Line song at the end,” McGuyre said. “I won’t lie – when I first got here when we’d win some and lose some, and we’re doing the Baylor Line with 30 other people in the crowd. It’s a lot different to share that joy with a couple thousand other people in the stands that are here to support us. It’s the difference between forcing tradition and seeing tradition come alive.”
With volleyball’s undefeated start and the 7-0 start of football, sports fandom is alive and well on Baylor’s campus. Senior libero Tara Wulf has been at Baylor through thick and thin within this program and said she is thankful for the new vibe at the Ferrell this season.
“Oh my gosh, [the crowd] is awesome. It just changes the atmosphere. Whether we’re up or down, to just see we have all those fans behind our back is just incredible,” Wulf said.
Now, the team must turn their attention to undoubtedly their toughest match of the season. Baylor travels to Austin Wednesday to face off against the No. 4 Longhorns.
The match will represent their first against a team close to their own caliber since the Sept. 6 win over then No. 4 Wisconsin. Having completed their 10th three-set match, Van der Mark said the team has been prepping for long matches in practice all year.
“We always practice three hours long, so we are always prepared for long matches. If it goes to five, we’ll get there. We’ll just play our hearts out, and we’ll do what needs to get done,” Van der Mark said.
McGuyre has been insistent upon preparing the team for the postseason, from the loaded preseason schedule to the poundings in practice, in order to prepare his team for December. But as the Bears inch one step closer to the NCAA tournament, Wulf said facing Texas has been on their mind all season.
“We are looking forward to winning. We are looking forward to doing something we’ve never done before. Our coach always says to do the almost, you have to do almost the impossible, so that’s what we’re going to do next week,” Wulf said.
No. 1 Baylor volleyball will face No. 4 Texas at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Austin.