By George Schroeder | LTVN Executive Producer
Coming off head coach Ryan McGuyre’s 500th career win, a ten-game win streak and eight matches at home, No. 13 Baylor volleyball travels to face Iowa State University Wednesday. This is followed by a contest versus the University of Kansas and McGuyre is calling this slate the Bears’ second true road test of the season.
The Bears (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) played outside of Waco in the Big Ten-Big 12 challenge, but the tournament was hosted at a neutral site at the Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth. Their first true road match ended in a 3-1 loss to Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif.— something McGuyre is not looking to repeat in Ames, Iowa, or Lawrence, Kan.
“I felt like we did not perform well at Pepperdine, in the one true road match, it was way too passive, not assertive,” McGuyre said. “The defense has to travel whenever you’re on the road. Can we be the aggressor, can we be the attackers from the start?”
One player the team is relying on to bring some defense is freshman outside hitter Alexis Dacosta, who said she is used to being an all-around player but is now playing back row.
“It’s been a very different experience for me, but it’s something that I really enjoy,” Dacosta said. “I have had very much help coming into it, with coaching experience and with the teammates.”
McGuyre said he hopes the team can begin to pull away from the Big 12 and look down from the top — but that climb won’t come without challenge, and victory will be found in the small details.
“There are no easy matches at all in the Big 12,” McGuyre said. “In our sport, the margins are thin. The difference between first and second was maybe like two-and-a-half points over the course of a match.”
After graduating 11 seniors last year, the team is now two-thirds underclassmen, and McGuyre said “speed of learning” will be key for the young roster to master those small details, which include focusing on faster movement, faster reading and faster decision making.
“We’re talking about speed with the ball and how we’re attacking and making that ball go a lot faster from the surface line to how hard we’re hitting it,” McGuyre said. “So that [for] the teams that aren’t fast or reading and reacting as quickly, our game becomes more disruptive.”
Freshman outside hitter Sophia Keene said she has been more confident after the opportunity to play last spring, but as conference play ramps up, she said she knows the team will have to be at its best. Proof of this comes from last Wednesday’s match that saw the Jayhawks battle No. 1 University of Texas to five sets before losing 3-2.
“It just really shows how anyone can take a set off of anyone,” Keene said. “It’s kind of anyone’s game, and you just have to go out there and play your best. I mean, it just showed us how good all of our matches will be.”
The Bears won’t have the fan presence from the Ferrell Center to back them in Ames or Lawrence, but Keene said the bench brings the needed energy no matter who’s watching, and Dacosta echoed that sentiment.
“Our team is very good at keeping it calm and collective,” Dacosta said. “We can still have that same energy with or without the amount of fans we get.”
With one conference match under their belt, a 3-1 win at home against TCU, and a 10-game winning streak, the Bears are hoping to keep it going, but McGuyre said momentum isn’t everything.
“You want to keep it going, but we still approach every match [as] ‘Hey, let’s make today the best [and] be the best version of ourselves today,’” McGuyre said. You know you hear it all the time, the point of power is in the present, you can’t control the past, can’t control the future.”
If you want to see how the Bears fare in the Midwest you can watch them face the Cyclones on ESPN 2, while the contest with the Jayhawks will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. The team will be back in Waco to face the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday, Oct. 5.