With just two teams undefeated in Big 12 play and in contention for the Big 12 Championship, Texas volleyball enters this week with a golden opportunity.
The No. 1 Baylor Bears head to Austin for a clash of top 5 teams Wednesday. Baylor has sat atop the AVCA Coaches poll for four weeks as the only undefeated team left in the country. Both Baylor and Texas are perched together at the top of the Big 12 standings, as Texas has won its first six conference matches with five consecutive sweeps heading into Wednesday.
“You know, I think this will be a really good test for us, I think to see kind of where we really are,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said.
The key to the Longhorns’ current full head of steam has been clear improvements in defense from the start of the season. The Longhorns put up a season high 12.5 blocks against West Virginia last Saturday, just two games after their previous season high of 10.
“Right now, we’re really making a focus for the defense side,” Elliott said. “And so we put some stretches together, we’ve been a little bit better.”
A big part of the turnaround Texas has seen in conference play has come down to the play of Skylar Fields. The freshman opposite hitter now leads the team with 22 blocks in conference play after an excellent performance against West Virginia.
Elliott said he likes how she’s made “incremental improvements” as the season has gone on and looks for her to continue to advance as a defensive player.
“It’s a very hard skill to improve on dramatically in a short period of time,” Elliott said. “But I like what her growth rate has been to this point.”
Texas will need all the help they can get defensively against a high-powered Baylor offense that runs through junior outside hitter Yossiana Pressley, who is second in the NCAA in kills per set.
Baylor comes into the match having steamrolled its way through its schedule so far. The Bears have lost just two sets in 16 matches and have beat top teams like No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 11 Marquette with ease.
Yet, the young Longhorns are looking at this match not as a roadblock in their way of a potential Big 12 Championship, but as a platform to vault them there.
“I’m really excited about this, and I don’t think this is a negative at all. It’s great. It’s good for college athletics,” Elliott said. “For us, it’s resume building … our ultimate goal is to win.”