Big 12 volleyball: Familiar theme with Texas, Baylor, Iowa State, OU on top

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Yossiana Pressley-Baylor Volleyball-Big 12 volleyball
Yossiana Pressley

It’s called the Big 12, but there are only nine volleyball teams in the league that was dominated last season by perennial power Texas and last year’s No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Baylor.

The Big 12 is one of the four conferences conducting a fall volleyball season and play starts Thursday when Texas goes to Oklahoma and West Virginia plays at Texas Tech. The complete Big 12 (in-conference only) fall schedule follows below.

Not surprisingly, the Big 12 coaches last June predicted Texas and Baylor to finish 1-2 in the league, followed by the two other teams that made the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Texas got six first-place votes and Baylor the other three. Rounding out the predictions were Kansas and TCU tied for fifth, followed by Texas Tech, Kansas State, West Virginia.

Here is a look at all nine teams in alphabetical order with their 2019 records:

Baylor (29-2, 15-1) — Coach Ryan McGuyre has built Baylor into a national powerhouse and enters his sixth season in Waco with perhaps the best player in the country in senior outside Yossiana Pressley, who has plenty of talented teammates. For that matter, most of the Bears return from a team that lost in the national semifinals and they’re joined by a couple of valuable transfers.

Start with Pressley, the high-jumping 6-footer with a rocket arm who was the AVCA national player of the year (and second in the VolleyballMag.com voting). She averaged 5.41 kills per set and was equally effective from both the front row and back. And she also averaged 2.43 digs.

Three important players are gone, libero Tara Wulf, pin hitter Gia Milano and middle Shelly Stafford. But leading the roster of 14 letterwinners is senior All-American setter Hannah Sedwick (she was Lockin but got married since last season). The other middle is back in 6-foot-4 Kara McGhee. So is the right side who exploded late in the season in 6-6 Marieke van der Mark. The transfers include middle Lache’ Harper from UCF, outside Lauren Harrison from North Carolina, Brazilian JC middle Andressa Parise, and setter Callie Williams, who is from Waco but sat out last year after transferring from Tennessee. A talented freshman class includes outside Cassie Davis and libero Giselle Vogel.

Iowa State (17-12, 8-8) — Seemingly no matter what, year in and year out the Cyclones are simply always a team to be reckoned with. As former Nebraska player Christy Johnson-Lynch enters her 16th season at Iowa State, you can expect the Cyclones to be in the postseason discussion again. Last season they lost their last three regular-season matches before losing to Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State has a core group back that includes senior middle Candelaria Herrera, junior right side Eleanor Holthaus, sophomore outside Annie Hatch, and senior setter Piper Mauck. Holthaus led in kills (308) and was third in blocks (81), while Herrera was fourth in kills (238) and second in blocks (101). Hatch was second in kills (280) and Mauck not only averaged 10.27 asssists, but had 25 aces and 54 blocks. Also back is junior middle Avery Rhodes, who led in blocks (110). The roster includes two redshirt-freshmen and five incoming freshmen.

Kansas (9-17, 5-11) — Coach Ray Bechard couldn’t catch a break in 2019. The Jayhawks never won back-to-back matches after early September. Bechard, who took Kansas to the 2015 final four, enters his 23rd season with one senior — setter Sara Nielsen — and graduate transfer Jenny Mosser, an outside from UCLA. It’s KU roster that includes five juniors, two sophomores, and eight freshmen.

The Jayhawks lost their top three hitters from last season. Ashley Smith and Zoe Hill were seniors and freshman Morgan Christon transferred to Texas A&M. A lot will be expected from Nielsen, Mosser, and junior middle Rachel Langs, who had 132 kills last year, and led in blocks with 93, 15 solo. Freshman middle Caroline Crawford and  junior pin hitter Anezka Szabo, a transfer from Nebraska, have a chance to be important cogs.

Brynn Carlson’s plays a ball during the Kansas State scrimmage last week/Scott D. Weaver, K-State athletics

Kansas State (9-19, 4-12) — The best news for K-State is that leading attacker Brynn Carlson (301 kills, 38 blocks), a 6-4 junior outside, returns and she’s joined by a highly respected incoming class. Shelby Martin, a senior who transferred from East Carolina, should be the setter. She was the 2017 American Athletic freshman of the year. No Kansas State player made the coaches all-preseason team. Coach Susie Fritz starts her 20th year in Manhattan.

Oklahoma (19-9, 9-5) — Oklahoma’s roster includes two players named Paige and two named Sarah, but none named Ashlynn. Ashlynn Dunbar, who was a senior in 2019, led the Sooners in kills with over 100 more than her next closest teammate. 
But a program that made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014 is expecting to be in the postseason chase again.
Two Sooners, senior libero Keaton Kinley, and one of those Sarahs, 6-4 senior outside Sarah Sanders, made the Big 12 preseason team. Kinley was the Big 12 libero of the year who averaged 4.91 digs per set, while Sanders was second to Dunbar with 262 kills (2.52/set) and was second in block with 99.
OU told us that the setter would not be senior Kylee McLaughlin, who is likely to sit this season out, but Grace Talpash, a sophomore transfer from San Francisco. McLaughlin, who made the Big 12 first team, ran a 5-1 for OU and was also second in digs. A freshman, Kelsey Carrington, will likely be one of the middles, and another freshman, Frenchwoman Guewe Diouf, will compete for an outside spot.

The leading blocker, middle Briana Kadiku, was a senior, but the other middle, senior Paige Anderson, returns. She had 245 kills and 91 blocks.  By the way, the other  other Sarah is senior outside Sarah Maras (147 kills) and the other Paige is senior DS Paige Johnson, who played in almost every set last season.

Texas (23-4, 15-1) — Even with the loss of do-everything outside hitter Micaya White, the Longhorns are loaded. There are plenty of observers who think the is the best Texas team since it won the NCAA title in 2012. While White led in kills and was second in aces, and second in digs, just consider who returns:

All three — yes, three — middles in junior Brionne Butler (134 kills, team-high 95 blocks, 14 solo), sophomore Asjia O’Neal (125 kills, 93 blocks, seven solo), and sophomore Molly Phillips (74 kills, 70 blocks). The remarkably explosive right side in sophomore Skylar Fields (246 kills, 90 blocks). The other outside hitter, junior Logan Eggleston (347 kills, 56 blocks, 214 digs). Both setters in junior Jenna Gabriel and senior Ashley Shook. And the libero, sophomore Sydney Peterson.

And just look at who is new as coach Jerritt Elliott begins his 19th season as the head coach in Austin: Junior outside Capri Davis, a transfer from Nebraska; highly touted freshman setter Naomi Cabello; and three liberos, including Illinois graduate-transfer Morgan O’Brien.

TCU (12-18, 4-12) — Jill Kramer enters her sixth season at her alma mater hoping for fewer injuries and more victories. The Horned Frogs will still be young but way more experienced.

The two leading attackers and blockers return in junior middle Katie Clark (289 kills, 99 blocks) and sophomore outside Audrey Nalls (263 kills, 63 blocks). So does sophomore outside Julia Adams (third in kills with 243), sophomore setter McKenzie Nichols, senior liberos Dani Dennison and Berklie Baker.

She was injured much of last season, but elan McCall transferred to UCLA. In 2018, she led TCU in kills.

Texas Tech (17-13, 7-9) — Emily Hill had almost one third of the Red Raiders’ kills in 2019, well over 200 more than any teammate, and led the team in aces. But the outside hitter was a senior, so obviously Texas Tech will have a different offensive look as coach Tony Greystone heads into his fourth season.

Junior outside Brooke Kanas (255 kills) is the only Red Raider on the Big 12 preseason team. Caitlin Dugan, a junior pin hitter, had 269 kills and was third on the team with 59 blocks. Also back are junior middle Karrington Jones (team-high 92 blocks, 164 kills) and both junior setters, Alex Kirby and Tatum Rhome.

A couple of transfers, Reagan Cooper, a sophomore outside who was at Washington State, and senior Samantha Sanders, came in from Texas A&M, should be in the mix, and so should freshman Mackenzie Morgan. Also returning is senior liberty Emerson Solano.

Reed Sunahara at a West Virginia practice last week

West Virginia (12-17, 3-13) — Coach Reed Sunahara enters his sixth season in Morgantown with eight letterwinners returning, including five starters. They include senior middle Briana Lynch and junior setter Lacey Zerwas. Lynch was third on the team in kills with 221 and second in blocks with 82. Zerwas averaged 10.33 assists and had 38 blocks and was second with 259 digs. Also back is senior libero Alexa Hasting, but the top two attackers, Katelyn Evans and Kristina Jordan, are gone. Evans was a senior and Jordan transferred to Cal Poly.

Two transfers come in — middle Emily Ogogor from Illinois State and Allison Thomas, a DS from Cleveland State who transferred there from Southern Illinois — and so do eight freshmen.

2020 Big 12 schedule
Thursday, September 24

Texas at Oklahoma
West Virginia at Texas Tech
Friday, September 25
Texas at Oklahoma
West Virginia at Texas Tech
Baylor at Kansas
Iowa State at Kansas State
Saturday, September 26
Baylor at Kansas
Iowa State at Kansas State
Thursday, October 1
Kansas State at West Virginia
Kansas at Texas
Friday, October 2
TCU at Baylor
Kansas State at West Virginia
Texas Tech at Iowa State
Kansas at Texas
Saturday, October 3
TCU at Baylor
Texas Tech at Iowa State
Thursday, October 8
Texas Tech at TCU
Iowa State at Texas
Friday, October 9
Oklahoma at Baylor
Texas Tech at TCU
West Virginia at Kansas
Iowa State at Texas
Saturday, October 10
Oklahoma at Baylor
West Virginia at Kansas
Thursday, October 15
TCU at West Virginia
Friday, October 16
TCU at West Virginia
Kansas at Oklahoma
Baylor at Texas Tech
Texas at Kansas State
Saturday, October 17
Baylor at Texas Tech
Kansas at Oklahoma
Texas at Kansas State
Thursday, October 22
Kansas at TCU
Oklahoma at Kansas State
Texas Tech at Texas
Friday, October 23
Kansas at TCU
Baylor at Iowa State
Oklahoma at Kansas State
Texas Tech at Texas
Saturday, October 24
Baylor at Iowa State
Thursday, October 29
West Virginia at Baylor
Kansas State at Kansas
Friday, October 30
West Virginia at Baylor
Texas at TCU
Oklahoma at Iowa State
Kansas State at Kansas
Saturday, October 31
Oklahoma at Iowa State
Texas at TCU
Thursday, November 5
TCU at Oklahoma
Friday, November 6
Kansas State at Texas Tech
TCU at Oklahoma
Baylor at Texas
Iowa State at West Virginia
Saturday, November 7
Kansas State at Texas Tech
Iowa State at West Virginia
Baylor at Texas
Thursday, November 12
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Texas at West Virginia
Friday, November 13
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Texas at West Virginia
TCU at Kansas State
Kansas at Iowa State
Saturday, November 14
Kansas at Iowa State
TCU at Kansas State
Thursday, November 19
West Virginia at Oklahoma
Texas Tech at Kansas
Friday, November 20
Kansas State at Baylor
Iowa State at TCU
West Virginia at Oklahoma
Texas Tech at Kansas
Saturday, November 21
Kansas State at Baylor
Iowa State at TCU

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