By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Your first semester of college is a very formative time, but it’s also a little weird. It’s even weirder during a pandemic. Weirder still when you start halfway through the school year. That’s exactly what Baylor volleyball’s new crop of recruits is doing.
The Bears have added five early enrollee freshmen to their roster, moving their roster total to 24 players. Coaching 24 players is no small feat, but head coach Ryan McGuyre has met the challenge head on.
“Trying to get the new ones adapted so they’re helping and enhancing the practices has been a welcome challenge,” McGuyre said. “Nothing good is easy. So, kind of going 100 miles an hour with our returners while throwing the freshmen and the newbies in the fire. Making sure we’re not breaking them or beating them down too much but helping them get acclimated at the same time. Doing all this simultaneously has been difficult, but I like how we’ve done it so far.”
Star recruits enrolling early has become a trend among high level volleyball players in recent years, due in large part to the extra time it gives them to adjust to college athletics. This year, things look a little different as freshmen are tossed in with a team gearing up for a shot at an NCAA title. Even though the new additions can’t compete, the time spent with the team has been beneficial.
“When I first decided I wanted to graduate early, I kind of knew that I’d be coming in during the spring just to train,” freshman setter Faith Lynch said. “I didn’t think we’d actually be coming in during a season. It honestly has been great. There has been no pressure to play, so I’ve been able just to train freely, understand what Baylor volleyball is all about.”
That isn’t to say that coming in in the midst of a contending team eyeing a national championship has been easy, but as McGuyre said, nothing good is.
“The toughest adjustment that I’ve had to make is focus level and intensity during practice,” freshman libero Keagan Polk said. “We have super long [practices]. They’re way more intense than anything that I’ve seen before being here. That’s been the biggest adjustment for me — just staying focused and staying on task.”
Polk and Lynch aren’t alone in their mid-season transition to NCAA athletics. They’re joined in Waco by fellow freshmen Lauren Briseño, Molly Kipp and Kaitlyn Riley. Five players is a lot to add to any roster, but that’s not all Baylor will be getting from their 2021 class. Grad transfer Preslie Anderson is already on the court for Baylor, making strong contributions for the team. Four more freshmen will join the Bears in the fall, rounding out Baylor’s largest ever recruiting class in more ways than one.
“We are going to be so big. That’s exciting for me,” assistant coach Samantha Eger said. “We’ve had years where we’ve been successful with smaller players, but it’s fun to get some size. Three of these girls are 6-foot-4 or taller.”
That size and skill level will certainly be a welcome addition to what is already a powerhouse team. Baylor volleyball currently sits at No. 6, but they’re looking forward to a big-time March 26 matchup with in-state rival and third-ranked Texas. The Longhorns have handed Baylor three of their four losses on the season, making showdown number four a must-see. Before that, the Bears will go to Houston’s Tudor Fieldhouse to take on Rice. That game is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. and will air on C-USA TV.