In the last month, TCU Volleyball has lost a lot.
After starting the season 5-3, the Frogs have gone 1-8 since, with seven of those losses coming in the form of a sweep. If it wasn’t for a gusty 3-2 victory over Texas Tech two weeks ago in Lubbock, the purple-and-white would be winless in conference play (1-6).
Now, the Frogs hold sole possession of last in the Big 12 play. With that in mind, is it time to give up on TCU? No way. Here are four things to keep in mind before you put Horned Frog Volleyball in your closet and forget about it.
1.) The Frogs keep it close.
Though their record would imply utter domination by their opponents, TCU has kept most of their matches close this season. Out of the 20 sets the Frogs have dropped in Big 12 play, 16 have been within seven or fewer points.
This was never more evident than when TCU faced No. 1 Baylor at home on Oct. 12. Down 0-2 to the top-ranked Bears, the Frogs put together one of their most impressive efforts of the season, pushing Baylor to a point that no other Big 12 team had prior. After reaching five set-points while defending four, the Frogs fell 34-32. This was the first time this season that Baylor had been forced beyond 30 points in conference play.
2.) TCU has been without McCall on the front line.
After leading the Frogs with 370 kills in her freshman campaign, outside hitter élan McCall was unanimously named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team leading up to the 2019 season. Unfortunately for TCU, McCall was forced to miss all of nonconference play with a nagging leg injury. The Rouse High School product returned on Sept. 25 at Oklahoma, but TCU Head Coach Jill Kramer has not felt okay with play McCall at outside hitter, so she has played on the back line since.
Though McCall has thrived in her new role (9.57 digs per match), her hard-hitting has surely been missed by TCU this season. After all, 4.74 kills per set are hard to replace. It is unknown how TCU would have performed during this first half of conference play with McCall on the front line, but one can only assume that the Frogs can point some of their struggles to her time with injury.
Kramer said that McCall is “week-to-week” in reference to when she will return to the outside hitter position.
3.) The Big 12, as well as TCU’s schedule, has been tough.
While yes, there is no doubt that a 1-6 record in conference play hints pretty blatantly at hard times, TCU is playing high-level opponents and in high-level locations. Out of the seven games the Frogs have seen in Big 12 play, four have been on the road.
Of the three conference games the Frogs have played at home, two have been against No. 4 Texas and No. 1 Baylor, respectively. While these are the only two teams the Big 12 can claim in the AVCA Coaches Top 25, Kramer testifies to the competitive nature of the conference.
“I’ve been so impressed with all the coaches in the league and what they’ve done this year,” Kramer said. “I think from top-to-bottom it’s super competitive, but I do think it’s anybody’s game on any given night.”
As TCU begins to see more time at home in the Rickel, which is looking for its record 22nd-straight sellout, the Frogs could begin to see more contest go their way.
4.) The future is bright for the Frogs
Though this season is far from over, next season for TCU Volleyball is certainly something to wait for in high anticipation. Not only will 2020 (hopefully) see the return of established weapons like sophomores McCall and middle blocker Katie Clark (currently second on the team with 147 kills), but several first-year players have established themselves as serious threats.
The most obvious is outside hitter Audrey Nalls. Nalls leads TCU with 197 kills while also standing at 6th in the Big 12 with 3.31 kills per set. With McCall out, Kramer has leaned on the first-year hitter for almost a third of her offensive production (28 percent).
After playing No. 4 Texas, Kramer talked about the growth she’s seen in Nalls early in conference play.
“I think clearly tonight that was a big step for you [Nalls]: you got to take in the full scout and also just play your game,” Kramer said. “I think that’s when you know you’re really going in the right direction.”
Alongside Nalls, setter McKenzie Nichols, middle blocker Afedo Manyang, and outside hitter Julia Adams have been able to make their presence known in their first years.
Nichols is ninth in the conference with 6.46 assists per set, while Manyang and Adams average 1.46 and 2.14 kills per set, respectively.
For more reasons than one, it’s not time to give up on Jill Kramer and TCU Volleyball. With 11 games to go in conference play and an exciting future on the horizon, the Frogs could be in for success very soon.
TCU will return to action on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. for a matchup at home with West Virginia.