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Baylor Volleyball

Preview: No. 18 Baylor Volleyball Readys for Showdown with No. 1 Texas

October 14, 2022
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WACO, Texas — The No. 18 Baylor Volleyball team (15-3, 4-1) is preparing to welcome the Big 12 leaders and national No. 1 team, the Texas Longhorns (13-0, 5-0), to the Ferrell Center for a Saturday afternoon contest with a lot on the line. 

With a win, the Bears can take the driver’s seat in the conference championship race as well as help their resume for NCAA tournament seeding. The conference is a home-and-away round-robin, so no matter the result, there will be another head-to-head opportunity in Austin later this year.

However, having Texas at home first, on a Saturday uncontested by Baylor Football could provide a huge crowd and a special opportunity.

The Bears are entering the game on a four-match win streak and directly on the heels of one of the team’s most complete performances against Rice on Wednesday. 

“Our chemistry was good,” said senior outside hitter Lauren Harrison, “We were insistent with the setters, and I think that's honestly really important going into Texas because that's gonna be a big factor into winning.”

Elise McGhee was stellar on Wednesday with 11 kills and .440 hitting percentage. 

“I think just focusing on having the same chemistry and consistency we did in the Rice game will help us play our best game,” said the younger McGhee.

While the players are happy with that performance, the importance of Saturday’s game is not lost on anyone.

“Rankings are at stake. Big 12 championships are at stake. For both of us, it's important,” said Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre.

“It's always been great volleyball. When we've had matches here in Waco, it's been number one versus number two or two versus number one. It's been record-breaking crowds.”

And that crowd has the potential to help Baylor in real ways. 

“I think sustaining the energy,” coach McGuyre responded when asked about the crowd, “I think when the crowd's behind you if there's an error or disappointing play, you're able to recover much quicker from it.”

And quick recoveries will be needed if the Bears stumble here or there. The Longhorns have not struggled much themselves this year, going to a fifth set just once. That one time was on the road at Kansas in their conference opener.

“This year's team's just really well balanced,” McGuyre said of Texas, “I think they're good in all areas of the game. They got some aggressive servers, but they're serving at a better percentage.”

“I think what makes them unique is I think there's not maybe one area of the game that we can target in and kind of blow up.”

Perhaps one area where the Bears can exercise an advantage though is in their depth.

“If we go five sets, we can maybe create an edge or two by using some more of our subs a little bit,” said McGuyre.

The Bears are a deep team and finding specific moments in the rotation to insert a serving specialist for example could help Baylor find an edge.

Another thing the Bears will be hoping to use to their advantage is All-Big 12 outside hitter Lauren Harrison hitting her stride after being sidelined for a couple of weeks in late September. 

“It was definitely challenging just starting the season and then stopping just because I had to be up for a few games,” said Harrison, “But I feel like now I'm starting to get comfortable.”

If Harrison, Elise McGhee and their teammates can play to the level they showed against Rice — the high level they are capable of reaching — then they have every chance of grabbing a huge win.

They have the talent. Coach McGuyre noted that Kara McGhee, Mallory Talbert and Harrison are playing at an All-Conference level if not an All-American level. Plus freshmen Averi Carlson and Allie Sczech are close to All-Conference level and at the very least will make the Big 12’s All-Freshmen team.

Obviously, Texas has their big guns too. Logan Eggleston, a senior outside hitter (No. 33), is a national player of the year candidate and should cause some trouble for the Bears.

Players will just have to step up for their respective teams, minimize mistakes, and make plays

“We're really excited,” said Lauren Harrison, “Playing Texas is always a challenge… we're just hyped up and ready to get after it tomorrow.”

If you can not make it out to the Ferrell Center for the 2 PM CST start time, the game will be streaming on ESPN+.

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Preview: No. 18 Baylor Volleyball Readys for Showdown with No. 1 Texas

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