WACO, Texas – With a 4-7 record and just five matches before Big 12 competition begins, the Baylor volleyball team approaches a four-match road trip to Houston this week. Baylor took two out of three matches at this weekend's Baylor Invitational, but is still trying to find consistency as the team travels to take on Rice Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Houston.
The Bears will have an opportunity to jump on the Owls who have struggled out of the gate with a 3-7 record. Rice and Baylor have a storied history in volleyball, but the teams have only played each other twice in the past 13 seasons.
In head coach Jim Barnes' only meeting with the Owls as Baylor coach, the Bears took a four-set victory in Waco, Sept. 6, 2008. However, prior to that the two schools hadn't met since Sept. 2, 2000 where Baylor defeated Rice in Houston in three sets. Rice leads the all-time series 23-16, but Baylor has won the last three against the Owls.
Playing largely with underclassmen, the Bears are 0-3 on the road this season. With the exception of senior outside hitter Zoe Adom and senior defensive specialist Kayci Evans, the Bears have featured four sophomores with at least seven starts while rotating junior Nicole Bardaj and freshman Tola Itiola at one of the middle hitter positions. Adom is sixth in the Big 12 with 3.36 kills per set.
Barnes said the key to a turnaround this season building consistency away from Waco.
"We have to learn to win on the road and get the consistent play we've been working towards," said Barnes. "We can play at a very high level with the great young talent we have, but we are not consistent yet. This week will be huge in taking another big step before we start conference."
Following Wednesday's match, Baylor will stay in Houston to compete Friday and Saturday at the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup hosted by the University of Houston. The Bears will face LSU Friday at 7 p.m., North Texas Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and Houston Saturday at 7 p.m.
Baylor's final tune up before Big 12 play starts at Iowa State Sept. 28 is a home match with UTSA Sept. 24.