Aug 28, 2013
In 35 seasons of Baylor volleyball, there have been 13 winning seasons, and in the last nine under head coach Jim Barnes, there have been seven including five straight. While Barnes has taken Baylor's program to new heights since his arrival in 2004, the 10th year head coach and the Bears are wanting more in 2013.
Coming off a 20-12 season in 2012, Baylor narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament after a sixth-place finish in the Big 12. From that team, all-conference honorees Torri Campbell and Alyssa Dibbern exhausted eligibility along with the Bears' primary setter in Kate Harris.
However, Zoe Adom, the team's lone selection on the 2012 All-Big 12 First Team returns to the squad after a monster season, especially in conference play where she averaged 2.74 kills per set. In addition, the team's leader in digs, Hope Ogden (358), and Thea Munch-Soegaard, the Bears' all-around returner, help anchor the team as it heads into 2013.
"We've always had a good middle attack, but this year we will also have a very talented and aggressive pin hitter attack," said Barnes. "Our speed at offense is exceptional, and our blocking will be one of the tops in the league."
With only Adom and Munch-Soegaard returning as players that started in at least half the matches in 2012, Barnes may have to lean on his under classmen. But, with the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes ranked in the top 20 by PrepVolleyball.com, Barnes said he is excited about the prospects.
"They have great, competitive drive. We have several freshmen who have the potential to be on the floor early," he said."I think we have the Big 12's best freshman in Katie Staiger."
Staiger comes to Baylor from Lewisville, Texas and Prestonwood Christian High School. The 6-1 outside hitter was touted as a third-team club All-America selection by PrepVolleyball.com for 18s. And, she was one of only three outside hitters to be selected as an All-American at the USA Junior National Championships.
Munch-Soegaard, Jones and Richburg are among the sophomores that made a statistical impact last season, and Sam Hill returns as a redshirt freshman after suffering an injury last season three matches into the year.
Baylor begins the season Friday in Fort Collins, Colo. at Colorado State, but the Big 12 season does not begin until Sept. 28 at Iowa State. Texas was the national champion last year and begins the season ranked No. 1 by the AVCA. ISU ranks 15th, Kansas 20th and Oklahoma and Kansas State are receiving votes from the Big 12.
Last season marked the fourth straight year five or more Big 12 teams earned bids to the NCAA postseason event. The league has sent at least five teams to the tournament in all but one season. Along with Texas, Iowa State, Kansas, K-State and Oklahoma made last year's field. The Bears just missed placing in the top five in the Big 12 standings finishing sixth at 7-9.
"It's the best league in the nation.Besides the national champs we have several top 25 programs," said Barnes."Any win in the Big 12 is a major victory and could propel a team into the NCAA tournament."
Before league play the Bears will begin with 16 non-conference matches before the 16-match league slate. Last year, Baylor was 13-3 in non-conference competition, and the Bears will use this time to give time for the new faces to gel with the veterans.
"We have the teamwork and work ethic to start with. We need to build our experience and the composure it takes to win big matches," said Barnes."Skill wise, If we pass the ball well in serve receive, I believe we can beat anyone. Our offense and defense can really compete."
Finally, Coach Barnes said that his team is playing for something bigger than themselves, and he said he believes it will lead to a great season.
"This 2013 team has exceptional character and drive. Their focus on playing for God is inspirational and will keep them on track for a big year," said Barnes.
Friday night's match with Colorado State will start at 7 p.m., CDT, and fans can listen live on BaylorBears.com's All-Access feature, which requires a subscription.