Baylor athletics continue to dominate headlines, as the Lady Bears currently rank as the #1 team in the country in both the AP poll as well as the RPI rankings. Not only are they the only undefeated team left in the country, but they are currently on a nine-game stretch in which they have not dropped a single set. Simply put, the Lady Bears are systematically decimating their opponents. But how’s it being done?
Baylor has had great volleyball talent for the last few years. However, in years past, that talent has not quite gelled in a sustainable way. This year, top tier talent has been infused with a fun-loving culture, and the shift has made all the difference.
When you see the Lady Bears play, the first thing you notice is the dancing. Before the game, during the game, and after the game, the entire bench unit can be seen enjoying themselves as the starting unit goes to work. It may seem silly, but this dancing loosens up the players and the fans alike. This potentially overoptimistic culture may not go over quite as well if it weren’t for the talent on the team, however.
Baylor’s success starts and ends with Yossiana Pressley. Pressley may just be the best player in the entire country right now – she leads the entire country in kills per set. The two time All American has received 10 Offensive Player of the week awards from the Big 12, while also being named to the All Big 12 Team twice. And perhaps the most importantly – she’s only a junior.
Here can see Pressley taking flight before absolutely crushing the ball into Kansas State’s back row. Luckily for the Bears, she still has another year in Waco.
But Pressley alone cannot carry this team. The Bears’ unsung hero may just be middle blocker Shelly Stafford, who is on pace for another historic season for the Bears from an efficiency perspective. After breaking the team hitting percentage record two years in a row, Stafford has a legitimate shot at making history again this season.
The reason for her effectiveness is her incredible volleyball IQ. Her ability to quickly diagnose the defense and attack the point of weakness is truly incredible, as you can see below:
In a split-second Stafford is able to see the vacated area, and instead of swinging for the fences, she simply pokes the ball over the net. Her IQ transitions to passing and blocking as well, where she is able to use precise placement in order to keep the other team guessing. The one two punch of Stafford and Pressley create matchup nightmares.
The Lady Bears go on the road for the next few games looking to preserve their win streak. If their success keeps up, they will enter the postseason as the favorite to win a national title.