- For the second time in the past month, Baylor volleyball (20-8, 8-4 Big 12) defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers (12-15, 3-10 Big 12) in a sweep that saw the Bears win, 25-17, 25-21 and 25-23. Baylor Bears dot com has this Baylor Bear Foundation Story by John Shellenberger.
Baylor once again avoided back-to-back losses, regrouping after a road loss to fifth-ranked Texas to control Saturday's home match in a commanding way.
Led by Katie Staiger's 18 kills, Baylor guaranteed itself a .500 or better finish in conference play for the first time in seven years.
Senior setter Morgan Reed got her team off to a hot start with a service ace that would kick-start a 6-0 run and give the Bears a 13-7 lead. Thanks to some phenomenal, diving digs by Jana Brusek and Staiger, Baylor maintained control of the first set, easily defeating the Mountaineers, 25-17.
"I think something that's been encouraging on our team is putting the ball down at the first opportunity," said junior libero Jana Brusek.
For Brusek to record a match-high 14 digs, the Chicago native said her mentality was too "be really aggressive in going for (the ball), trusting the setters, trusting the passers, and trusting that the defenders will be covering them."
As commander of the defense, Brusek relies heavily on her blockers to alter the play of the opposing offense. On offense, the Bears rely on her game-changing serving.
"Really to finish off the second set, Jana's serve did it for us," head coach Ryan McGuyre said. "We talked defense, and defense for us has always been tough serves, well-formed blocks and digs that equal kills. In that second set, the serve was the difference."
The Bears found themselves in a similar situation in the third set, only this time it was Freiberg's individual performance that would ensure Baylor's victory.
With her team trailing 19-20, Freiberg rattled off three kills mixed in between a Staiger kill and service ace to scrape out the third-set win, 25-23, and close out the match.
"We know, to win the big matches , we've got to trust," McGuyre said. "Katie was good and she was doing good things for us, but we've got to keep other people involved. We didn't stress Camryn's name, but we were saying, `we're getting predictable, we've got to trust some of the things we're working on.' It's easier to trust when you have the results you want, but we've got to trust first and then those results come."
A sweeping victory that pushes the Bears' win tally into the 20's is certainly the result they wanted today, but they are already focused on the results of the upcoming match against TCU.
"We take games game-by-game," said Brusek. "We want to make sure the next team on our schedule is the most important game. And that we're learning from any mistakes, any film, anything that we've done in the past to get ready for the future. We're definitely focused on what's ahead and not looking too far back in the past."
With only four games left in the regular season, Baylor sits in third place in the Big 12 behind Texas and Kansas. After two road games, the Bears will face their final two opponents at the Ferrell Center. Baylor plays TCU for the second time this season at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Fort Worth after sweeping the Horned Frogs in Waco.
- Baylor eclipsed a number of milestones with the win, including the first 20-win season since 2012 and the first eight-win season in conference play since 2010. From Baylor Athletics.
The Bears have also locked in a .500 or better finish in Big 12 play for the first time since 2009, when Baylor finished 11-9 in conference and went on to the Sweet 16.
In set one, the Bears cruised by the Mountaineers, jumping out to a seven-point lead at 18-11. BU used a kill from Ashley Fritcher and forced a WVU attack error to close out the frame and take the 1-0 lead.
In the second, Baylor saw a four-point lead at 15-11 cut down, with WVU taking a one-point lead as late as 19-18. The Bears responded, mounting a 7-2 run to close out the set and go up 2-0.
In the final set, neither team led by more than two points throughout the entire set, with a WVU block tying the set at 23-23 late in the frame.
Back-to-back kills from Camryn Freiberg and Aniah Philo finished off the sweep, giving BU the 3-0 match victory.
• Baylor swept the season series with WVU for the second-straight season, having won the last four matchups between the teams.
Katie Staiger (561 kills) passed Tisha Schwartz (554, 2003) for the No. 7 spot on Baylor's single-season kills list.
Jana Brusek (473 digs) bumped past Brenda Kunz (465, 1993) for the No. 9 spot on Baylor's single-season digs list.
• Baylor had four hitters with .375 or better attack rates: Camryn Freiberg, .450 (9-0-20); Katie Staiger, .424 (18-4-33); Nicole Thomas, .429 (4-1-7); Ashley Fritcher, .375 (5-2-8).
"We talked defense. Defense for us has always been tough serves, well-formed blocks, digs, and even kills, and in the second set, the serve was the difference. It almost hurt us, we had some missed serves towards the end in the third set, and it kept them alive. We've got to stay great at serving and passing, TCU serves really great in their gym there. It's loud, so we have to work on communicating within the plays with that eye contact and the hand signals. To go deep in postseason, we have to be able to make plays and adjustments." -Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre.
Baylor heads into the penultimate week of the regular season, trekking to TCU on Wednesday, Nov. 16 for a 7 p.m. match.
- No. 3 Baylor equestrian (6-2, 1-1 Big 12) came away with a win in a close meet against No. 7 TCU (2-3, 0-2) this Saturday, at the Willis Family Equestrian Center. From Baylor Bears dot com.
In equitation over fences, Baylor secured its only point on Shannon Hogue 's ride with a score of 86. Through the first event, TCU carried the advantage at 3-1.
BU came back with a strong showing in horsemanship, securing points from Aspen Crew, Kelsie Holman, and Kaylee Mellott. Mellott led the group in scoring with a 74. The Bears eventually won the event 3-1 tying the total score at 6-6. Crew came away with MOP honors for the event.
After the break, a back and forth battle ensued on the flat. Savannah Jenkins started the scoring for Baylor with an 84, only to have two points in response by TCU.
Rachel Van Allen then tied it up at 2-2 with her own score of 80. With Alicia Gasser left to ride and a score of 87 by TCU, she took the flat and tied the score with her own 87. Jenkins earned MOP for the event.
With a 2-2 finish in the flat, the two sides stayed knotted up at 6-6 for the meet, entering reining for the fourth and final event of the day.
The two sides traded points and a tie for the first three rides, with a re-ride rewarded, tying the meet at 7-7. BU clinched the re-ride and the final ride, taking a 3-1 win in reining and a 9-7 victory in the meet. Baylor secured the points on rides from Charlotte Green, Georgia Smith, and Elizabeth Shank. Green led the group with a 71.
The next event for the Bears is Jan. 26th, against TCU in Fort Worth to begin its spring schedule.
Watching his fifth-year senior quarterback carted off the field with a dislocated and possibly fractured left ankle, Baylor coach Jim Grobe wasn't even thinking about "losing that production and that talent at quarterback." Story by Jerry Hill of the Baylor Bear Foundation
Seth Russell, who made a miraculous recovery from a fractured neck to start the Bears' first nine games, missed the last 20 minutes of Saturday's 45-24 loss at No. 9 Oklahoma and will likely miss the remainder of his senior season.
"It's heartbreaking, because he's worked so hard to come back from the neck injury," Grobe said after the Bears dropped their third in a row and fell to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12. "It's just like having one of your own children hurt. It just breaks your heart to see a really, really good guy get hurt like that. The good news is I think he'll heal up just fine. The bad news is he probably won't be able to get back this year."
In what could be his last collegiate game, Russell struggled against the Sooners (8-2, 7-0), hitting just 15-of-31 for 148 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions and rushing for 70 yards on 12 carries.
Linebacker Jordan Evans picked off a Russell pass at the goal line, when the Bears had a chance to make it 14-7. And then in the third quarter, Evans returned his second interception of the day 23 yards to set up a one-yard TD run by Samaje Perine that made it 35-10.
"It was really critical," Grobe said of the goal-line interception near the end of the opening quarter. "The other one that was critical was when we had to settle for a field goal because of the (personal foul) penalty. I was still proud of our guys, because we didn't give up and we go in 21-10 with some momentum with a good drive near the end of the half. I really thought we had an opportunity to do some damage."
On the heels of getting blown out 62-22 by TCU at home, the Bears actually showed signs of life and even promise in a difficult road test against a top-10 Oklahoma team.
The defense had as many stops in the first half as it had the whole game last week against TCU, forcing three punts and getting a turnover on Orion Stewart's fifth interception of the year.
"Just take away a few mistakes, and we're looking at trying to come back and win this game," said senior cornerback Ryan Reid, who helped limit receiver Dede Westbrook to four catches for 88 yards. "I feel like it takes just one person to set off the tempo and make a big play, get everybody going. Every time we get something going, we shoot ourselves in the foot."
After getting blistered for a season-high 431 yards rushing and 688 yards total offense the week before, the Bears kept the potent 1-2 punch of Joe Mixon and Perine in check until some big fourth-quarter runs that padded their totals.
Baker Mayfield completed 20-of-25 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score. But, Mixon and Perine were held to a combined 224 yards on 37 carries.
"We just made it a little bit simpler and focused on fitting where we needed to," linebacker Aiavion Edwards said. "Not try to do too much - blitzing-wise and everything - and I think it paid off, for sure."
Early on, it looked like the Sooners might blow it open, scoring on two of their first three drives and going up 14-0. Mayfield scored on a 15-yard TD run and then found Dede Westbrook, who somehow stayed on his feet and in bounds for a 29-yard TD.
The Bears looked like they would answer, driving from their own 33 to within about a yard and a half of the goal line. But on third-and-one from inside the 2, Russell tried to squeeze a pass into Blake Lynch that was picked off by Evans.
A little over five minutes later, Perine capped off an impressive 11-play, 91-yard drive with a four-yard run off right tackle. Austin Seibert's extra point made it 21-0.
"We know the team we've been putting on the field the last three weeks isn't the team we are," Edwards said. "We know we have to get better. . . . The coaches put us in a great position today, but we didn't make the plays we needed to when we needed to. I think it just boils down to us focusing a little bit more and just being able to execute the game plan."
The sellout crowd of 86,249 probably expected the Bears to just fold it in at that point, but they didn't.
Converting four times on third down, Baylor's offense stuck mainly with its ground attack and moved from its own 25 down to the Sooners' 7. But the Bears' Achilles' heel reared its ugly head with a snap infraction penalty on center Kyle Fuller and a much costlier 15-yard personal foul on guard Ishmael Wilson.
That pushed them all the back to the 18, with Chris Callahan getting the Bears on the board with a 35-yard field goal.
"I told the guys today, we can be a really good football team," Grobe said, "but we can't make the mistakes we did today. Oklahoma is a really good team and belongs in the top 10, but so many of the things we did today were self-inflicted. Things we did to ourselves that we can clean up."
Forced into running back duty when Terence Williams went out with an injury, redshirt freshman receiver Blake Lynch picked up 47 yards on three carries to spark an eight-play, 80-yard drive that got Baylor in the end zone for the first time.
Lynch, who finished with 58 yards on just six totes, broke off a 20-yard run on fourth-and-two from the Sooners' 44. And then Russell connected with KD Cannon on the very next play for a 24-yard TD that made it 21-10.
Baylor had another scoring opportunity late in the half after the Stewart interception, but Russell turned it back over on a fumble with the Bears knocking on the door at the OU 34.
Penalties also proved costly on Baylor's first two series of the second half, with a 29-yard pass to Pook Stricklin wiped out by an ineligible receiver and a 23-yard run by JaMycal Hasty nullified by a holding penalty on tackle Patrick Lawrence.
The Sooners started pulling away again with another Mayfield-to-Westbrook TD connection for 40 yards. And then the real back-breaker was Evans intercepting a tipped pass and returning it 23 yards, setting up the 1-yard TD run by Perrine and a 35-10 lead.
"If we had gotten off the field, we would have come away feeling a little bit better about ourselves defensively and had a chance to win," Grobe said.
Those comeback chances got even slimmer when Russell was carted off the field with 5:48 left, his left ankle wrapped in a protective boot and seemingly popped back in place. Leaving to a standing ovation by the home crowd, an appreciative Russell waved as he left.
"More than anything, you just felt sick, because you know how much he's put in and how dynamic and how much he means to our team," said tight end Jordan Feuerbacher.
Reid said Russell's injury "hit us pretty hard. When one of our brothers go down, it's always going to hit us pretty hard. But, we knew we had to keep playing."
And they did.
Finishing off a drive that Russell started, freshman quarterback Zach Smith hit tight end Sam Tecklenburg for a 23-yard pass on fourth-and-seven and then got his first career rushing touchdown on a keeper from inside the 1.
"I was kind of shocked, (Russell) is like a brother to me," said Smith, who completed 6-of-15 passes for 144 yards. "Knowing what had happened last year, I had just prepped myself for that situation. Nerves were really high, as usual, but I was prepared for it."
The defense's dam finally burst with a 56-yard TD run by Mixon at the start of the fourth quarter, but Smith hooked up with Cannon for a 62-yard touchdown pass and then came up just short at the end of the game on a fourth-down pass to Stricklin down to the OU 1.
"I really like what he did against a really good football team and a big crowd on the road," Grobe said of Smith, who was seeing his first extensive action in a Big 12 game. "I thought he came in and was very comfortable and made some great throws. . . . I know Zach Smith, he's really disappointed Seth got hurt, there's no question about that. At the same time, it's his opportunity to step up, so he should be excited about that."
Baylor returns home to host Kansas State (5-4, 3-3) next Saturday, Nov. 19, for the final game of the season at McLane Stadium, with kickoff time and TV info expected to be released by Sunday. The Wildcats are coming off a bye after falling at home to Oklahoma State, 43-37, last week in Manhattan.