By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
A month ago, Baylor volleyball was the last undefeated team in the country and held the No. 1 ranking. The Bears then suffered their first loss of the season to then-No. 4 Texas in Austin, ending their 16-0 streak in three sets.
Now No. 3 Baylor gets a rematch against the No. 1-ranked Longhorns on its home turf Wednesday night to what is set to be a record-setting crowd at the Ferrell Center with over 4,700 tickets already sold as of Monday evening.
Head coach Ryan McGuyre said he hopes the crowd will bring more excitement to a high-stakes match.
“That’s why you play,” McGuyre said. “This is why the girls came and it was part of the dream and the vision. To go from a crowd of 60 to 6,000 is going to be pretty cool, fun, exciting. Again, it just goes back to multiplying the joy and then if we’re struggling have that crowd push us through. And Lord willing, they’re also going to have an impact on how Texas plays as well.”
The Bears thought they were ready last time they faced Texas, but McGuyre said that loss was something his team needed to go through. Now what Baylor needs to do is execute.
“I felt like we were ready,” McGuyre said. “We were up to a 5-2 lead and just goes back and forth and there’s a consistency of execution that didn’t happen for us down the stretch. So, that’s a challenge in our sport, when it’s all said and done it’s pass, set, hit, and whoever can do it better than the other team is going to win.”
The Bears have not won a match against Texas since the 2001 squad scraped out a five-set victory on Oct. 27, 2001 in which former outside hitter Stevie Nicholas pounded 32 kills against the Longhorns. A win for Baylor would tie them up for first place in the Big 12, which could have major implications when postseason comes around.
“Texas has been good and has been to the Final Four like eight out of the last nine years or something like that,” McGuyre said. “It would probably help them in a way, us also getting a win and being on the national stage as well. It’s a great conference, but there’s so many great coaches, legendary coaches, hall of fame coaches in our conference that we’re able to sharpen one another.”
The key for Baylor this time around is to keep up the “tempo and crispness” and to keep the “margin of error” low, especially because of the height the Longhorns have. Controlling the speed of the game falls to junior setter Hannah Lockin, but there is no pressure for the junior.
“It’s another game that we need to win and at the end of the day it’s volleyball,” Lockin said. “It’s another game that we get to have … We know what we need to do.”
The game is being promoted as a “White Out” match, so fans are encouraged to wear white on Wednesday night. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free T-shirt when doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Texas will be a tough challenge, but for McGuyre, the match gets the team one step closer to a national championship game.
“Opportunities aren’t lost — they’re taken,” McGuyre said. “We really need to capitalize on those as often as possible. We relish the adversity. We want to be in those types of matches. For me in my career you’re going to have a whole bunch of them, but for the girls as they are going through four years you want them to win those as many as possible. Our start of the season it was all about December. So we’re still in November and again this is the best test of the month for us to see how good we can be in December. And win or lose we got to take away a lot from it to make sure we sure things up and can be at our best in the final month.”
The Bears face off against the Longhorns at 7 p.m. in the Ferrell Center.