No. 3 volleyball faces OU as second half of Big 12 play begins

Redshirt sophomore opposite Marieke van der Mark (left), junior setter Hannah Lockin (middle left) and senior middle blocker Shelly Stafford (far right) prepare to attack as senior libero Tara Wulf (middle right) lines up to set the ball for her teammates against Texas Tech Oct. 19. The Bears swept the Red Raiders at the Ferrell Center. Cole Tompkins | Multimedia Editor

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

No. 3 Baylor volleyball is heading to Norman, Okla. Wednesday to seek the first of head coach Ryan McGuyre’s next 100 wins. The matchup will feature the second and third-ranked squads in the conference.

This week’s match will be Baylor’s first in the second half of Big 12 play. The Bears finished the first half with a 7-1 record, including a sweep of Oklahoma in Waco. McGuyre said that while reveling in success doesn’t help going forward, looking back to find out what didn’t work is a priority.

“Who have we beat? How have we beaten them? How have we been vulnerable, and what do we need to do going forward?” McGuyre said after the West Virginia match Saturday. “Now we maintain that and keep our pins going faster and just keep the pressure on the opponents.”

In Baylor’s last 20 matches on the road, McGuyre’s teams have gone 16-4, with the only losses coming to Texas and Kansas. The Bears’ last match in Norman, Okla. was a four-set win highlighted by Shelly Stafford’s career-high 24 saves.

After the loss at now No. 1 Texas, Baylor has been focusing on the concept of “fast middles.” UT middle blocker Brionne Butler knocked around the Bears in Austin, with her quick feet and fast hands, and McGuyre wants Shelly Stafford and Kara McGhee to emulate that as the season progresses.

“In practice Thursday, we really focused on [that], and we were doing really well in working on [it]; so, that’s something we wanted to get in the game for sure,” McGhee said.

Senior Tara Wulf racked up a season-high in digs in Saturday’s match; and postgame, she was more impressed with her freshman teammates play than her own.

“We’ve been working on … zero-tempo middles just the past two days in practice, and [McGhee] really put that into play this game; and I’m so proud of her,” Wulf said. “She was killing every single set.”

In the first match against Oklahoma this season, the Bears hit .301 in 93 attempts, but it was also the first match of conference play that Baylor struggled with blocking. The team only got 6.5 blocks on the Sooners’ attacks, whereas McGuyre normally prefers his teams to get around nine blocks in a three-set match.

Oklahoma stands at 14-5 on the season, with only two losses in the past six weeks (road matches with No. 1 Baylor and No. 4 Texas). The Sooners are led by fifth-year senior outside hitter Ashlynn Dunbar, who paces the team with 3.38 kills per set.

Baylor will play Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Norman, Okla. at the McCasland Field House. The game can also be watched on Fox Sports Oklahoma.