By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Baylor’s rotation of middle blockers was already one of the nation’s best. Talented players like Kara McGhee, Laché Harper and Andress Parise have given Baylor consistent, high-end production at the net.
That rotation is only getting better.
Middle blocker Preslie Anderson, a graduate transfer from the University of California, Berkeley, has joined the team for the spring portion of the season, which will include the NCAA tournament. During the transfer process, Baylor’s tight-knit community helped make Anderson’s decision an easy one.
“I genuinely, wholeheartedly believe that this is very much a family environment,” Anderson said. “The athletics program has really shown me — from every single person that I’ve met, from the AD down — that we’re all here for one another. It’s really cool to see such competitive, talented people pride themselves in community service, being good people, being academically sound.”
Anderson, an All-Pac 12 selection in 2019, led the conference with a .402 hitting percentage. That mark would be the best among Baylor’s middle blockers by almost nine percentage points. Anderson is also a defensive force, as she totaled 98 blocks in her junior campaign. With numbers like that, head coach Ryan McGuyre is confident Anderson will make an impact for the Lady Bears, even if it’s taking some adjustment.
“Trying to get Preslie and the new [freshmen] adapted so that they’re helping and enhancing the process has been a welcomed challenge,” McGuyre said. “Nothing good is easy, and we’re kind of going 100 miles per hour with our returners while throwing the freshmen and newbies in the fire.”
In joining a team that’s already halfway through their season, Anderson has had a steep learning curve, but it’s not one she can’t handle.
“It’s been such an exciting challenge for me, because I feel like I’m able to be a fresh face with the team and kind of add depth where maybe they didn’t have it in the fall,” Anderson said. “I’m still trying to learn their system on the spot, where they had that time in the fall to obviously establish it. So it’s something where I’m playing the catch-up game but also trying to provide my strength to the team as well.”
While the on-court adjustment is one thing, acclimating to Texas is quite another. Anderson spent her childhood in Arizona before attending Cal in the Bay Area. Texas, as she now knows, is a little different from the west coast.
“Texas is definitely different,” Anderson said. “Going to California, I kind of knew what I was getting myself into. Berkeley is obviously much more of a city, and closer to San Francisco. So, I kind of had a lot going on, a lot of people around me, definitely more crowded as opposed to here. I think Waco is a lot more homey. It’s small, and I wasn’t really expecting that … but I’m actually really enjoying my time here in Texas so far.”
Even though she’s only been in Waco for a short time, Anderson has already picked up on something many Baylor fans will be familiar with — a passion for beating the Longhorns. Baylor and UT go head-to-head in a lot of ways, and Anderson is excited to help the Bears get the edge on the court.
“As soon as I became a part of this program, my passion for the rivalry versus Texas has just become so natural,” Anderson said. “I’m so excited for our [games with Texas]. I’m super stoked about those games. Obviously, I’m not going to overlook any of our opponents. I think we have a really good strength of schedule, but it’s always fun when we can play Texas because we always know that it’s going to be a battle.”
Fans can see Anderson and the Bears take on the Longhorns at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Austin on Wednesday. The game will air on the Longhorn Network as two of the nation’s best teams meet for the first time this spring.