Is it possible to be intense and laid-back all at once?
Members of the Baylor volleyball team would say yes. Sure, the Bears find their confidence at an all-time high in correlation with the program’s best-ever No. 5 national ranking. But they also expected to be here. And they’re not letting the extra attention go to their heads.
“Definitely confident, but it’s also the chillest it’s ever been, in the best way,” Baylor setter Hannah Lockin said. “We’re confident, but we have a cool about us that we know we’re going to be successful and we know what each person brings and the level we’re expected to be at. So it really is a cool confidence.”
The Bears (5-0) have every reason to strut. They’ve yet to play a home match and have dropped only one set in tallying wins over UCLA, No. 18 Creighton, Syracuse, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 11 Marquette. Emerging unscathed through such a gauntlet stands an impressive achievement, but BU head coach Ryan McGuyre, like the players, isn’t surprised.
“Definitely felt like we had a chance. You’ve got to dream big, and there’s no rewards without the risk,” McGuyre said. “It’s hard to go deep in the (NCAA) tournament, it’s hard to win a national championship.
“Getting back to these seniors, because we didn’t get as far as we wanted to last year, they did not have the benefit of an Elite Eight or Final Four experience to kind of carry into it this year. The hope was going to Nebraska and Wisconsin would be kind of that atmosphere, that setting, those types of teams. So hopefully when we hit the tournament as well, we’re a little bit more experienced in that.”
When Yossiana Pressley is levitating in the stratosphere, it’s wise for the Bears to grab hold of her shirttail and hang on for the ride. Pressley is playing as well as anyone in the country. The junior outside hitter is the reigning AVCA National Player of the Week, and she ranks No. 2 nationally in kills per set average at 6.25, behind only Liberty’s Ameila Johnson (6.92).
When Pressley is locked in and unleashing a barrage of kills, Lockin said that she just tries to keep the ball coming her direction.
“If she’s hot, I want to feed her,” Lockin said. “I definitely want to play however is going to get us the win. But I love when Yossi is hot, because then it’s like, all right, we’re going to make it the Yossi Show.”
McGuyre said that he thought Pressley could raise her game even higher before the season ever commenced. She’s proving the coach prophetic.
“Extremely safe to say she’s done that,” McGuyre said. “When she was on fire last year, we were obviously winning games. And sometimes, she would struggle a little bit. But she has not had a match where they’ve been able to shut her down. But also part of that is her staying within the game. She’s played so intelligently.”
At long last, Baylor will get a chance to play at home this week. The Bears will face Houston (5-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday in their opening match of the Hampton Inn and Suites Baylor Invitational. Then at 1 p.m. Saturday they’ll take on Tennessee (2-3) to close out the event.
“It’s just awesome to be back where we’re familiar,” Lockin said.
They’ll probably even be introduced as “the No. 5-ranked Baylor Bears.” Asked what that means to hear that, senior libero Tara Wulf said it just sounds right.
“I think it means we’re a solid volleyball team,” Wulf said. “And, honestly, we deserve it. We’ve been putting in the hard work. We don’t forget our identity, though. Numbers don’t mean a lot, but it just reflects the hard work we put in day in and day out in the gym.”