Baylor volleyball coach Ryan McGuyre is a man who appreciates the scriptures, so he’s probably familiar with Isaiah, chapter 11, verse 6: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together … and a little child shall lead them.”
The “children” on Baylor’s surging volleyball team are growing up quickly. And with a few fabulous freshmen leading the way, the Bears could be in line for a special season.
Those kids contributed greatly to Baylor’s 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-16 win over Texas Tech in the Big 12 opener on Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center. Freshman setter Hannah Lockin and freshman outside hitter Yossiana Pressley both played with a craftiness beyond their years, as the Bears (11-3, 1-0) nabbed their sixth straight win overall.
“Offensively, I thought we were pretty solid all night,” McGuyre said. “Hannah Lockin, best match of the year for her. She’s really matured. It was great to see her be so good in the conference opener, and Yossi was right behind her. The two freshmen, when they’re on, we’re really, really, really good. As they’re learning the game, we’ve had times where we’ve stubbed our toe, but both of them, I thought, were phenomenal tonight.”
Lockin, a setter out of Des Moines, Iowa, adeptly navigated her sets to Baylor’s array of powerful hitters, finishing with 53 assists. But she was also a master of the sneak attack against the Red Raiders (11-3, 0-1). She went 4-for-4 on dumps – those nifty fake-sets-turned-kills – and also made her presence known at the net with a pair of blocks.
“She hit a thousand,” McGuyre said. “We’ve always told all our setters, if you’re going to dump it, you’ve got to lead us in hit percentage. You’ve got to hit a thousand, because we have some great hitters … For the team to hit .353 and she hits a thousand, some big blocks, that’s everything you want out of a setter.”
A setter must display a special knack to know even when to attempt a dump, to sense when the defense is rotating and is ripe for the picking. Lockin displayed that knack perfectly against Tech.
“Mostly it’s a feel,” Lockin said. “I’m continuing to learn how to do it more in the right situations, and put it down for a kill. Tonight it worked out pretty well.”
Baylor had to be efficient with its attacks, McGuyre noted, because Tech is a team that doesn’t make many defensive errors. As a result, the Bears gained most of their points throughout the night on kills and aces, rather than unforced errors from the opponent. “We had to earn them,” McGuyre said.
In the opening set, Baylor maintained a four- to five-point cushion most of the way, then took the set 25-20 when senior All-American Katie Staiger soared to smash a crosscourt winner for the clincher. Staiger whacked 20 kills in 41 swings on the night, tallying a .415 percentage. It was her fifth match of 20 or more kills on the season.
The Red Raiders had won seven of their past eight entering the duel with Baylor, and they never made it easy on the Bears. In the second set, they caught BU’s defense napping early en route to a quick 4-1 lead.
Baylor fought back, eventually taking a 23-20 lead on a mishit from Tech’s Emily Hill. But Tech refused to bow out without a fight, as Hill subsequently came up with a defense-befuddling tip that led to a string of five straight Red Raider points to close the set.
“We just (noted) everything that they did good and said, ‘Hey, we need to stop them,’” Pressley said. “We need to close the block, get the touches, play together, that kind of thing. We knew what we needed to do.”
And they got it done. With Pressley soaring so high on some of her 15 kills that it seemed she was bouncing off a trampoline, the Bears ratcheted up their play in the final two sets. They hit .500 in the fourth set and .484 in the finale to snuff out any hopes of a Tech rally.
Camryn Freiberg proved steady at the net for the Bears, spurning the Red Raiders with one solo block and six block assists. Aniah Philo and Jana Brusek paced the back row passing with 14 digs apiece, while Shelly Fanning chipped in three blocks and hammered 12 kills, including a decisive punch on match point.
Hill and Chandler Atwood topped Tech with 12 kills each.
Baylor will venture to the road to face TCU (8-4, 0-1) on Saturday. Should the Bears keep up their winning ways, they should vault into the Top 25 soon, as they’ve been receiving votes in the AVCA rankings since the preseason. (They were the equivalent of 30th in the most recent poll.)
But they’ve got grander goals in mind.
“Our goal is to be a team that is multiplying joy, playing for something bigger than ourselves, really glorify God in what we’re doing,” McGuyre said. “We think a Big 12 championship could be a beautiful byproduct of that.”