When Texas volleyball head coach Jerritt Elliott took the podium on Monday, he spoke with a particular vigor — and for good reason. The Longhorns have had five consecutive wins in straight sets and are turning their sights on their impending clash against No. 1 Baylor.
“We’re excited to be back home,” Elliott said. “We’re looking forward to a really good matchup. We have a ton of respect for what Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre has done over there. Obviously they have been pretty special.”
Texas and Baylor currently sit atop the Big 12 as the last teams undefeated in conference play. The Longhorns high-powered offense has averaged 14.3 kills per set, while the Bears have won 14 of their 16 matches in straight sets.
Even though Baylor has been dominant in 2019, they have struggled historically against Texas at home, losing 43 consecutive matches in Gregory Gymnasium.
“I don’t think any team is unbeatable,” Elliott said. “We have the pieces to put up a good fight, and we’re excited to have that opportunity.”
The matchup also marks an opportunity for both teams to broadcast their talents in the Big 12, due to it being a nationally highlighted matchup.
“Sometimes our conference doesn’t get as much respect early on,” Elliott said. “To me it’s great. This is what our conference needs. It’s resume building for our ultimate goals.”
Winning on a national stage and potentially solidifying a resume for the NCAA tournament adds a great deal of motivation for both teams. Texas is looking to tap into the emotion as a boost.
“I think they will be fired up,” Elliott said. “I think they’re ready for this emotional excitement, that release of energy and to play as one.”
This won’t be an easy task against Baylor’s talent, boasting multiple players who have been awarded with Big 12 Player of the Week. However, the Longhorns also have multiple players who boast the same accomplishment, specifically Skylar Fields.
“You can see the improvement rate from her,” Elliott said. “We’ve been working with her on picking the right spots with her eyes. It is hard to learn, but I like what I’m seeing.”
Texas has also started to add more emphasis on their defense, which is starting to trend upward. The Longhorns recorded 38 digs in their last match against West Virginia.
“We’ve had a big focal point on our defense.” Elliott said. “We have obviously been getting a rhythm offensively, but we’ve been shifting to the defensive side, and we put some stretches together.”