“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
-1 John 1:7
As the Baylor Women’s Volleyball team fell short in their 2020 NCAA Tournament loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the players gathered around together in a circle after the game. In the midst of experiencing the heartbreaking defeat, they joined hands and together prayed. Led by coach Ryan McGuyre, the Baylor volleyball team has made it a priority to not only play their hearts out on the court, but leave an impact off of it as well. That impact for Baylor is centered around their foundation of faith.
Faith has played a central role in the lives of Baylor’s players and staff. For star middle blocker Kara McGhee, she says that it has been her time at Baylor that has helped her develop relationships with her teammates and grow closer to God. “The relationships I have formed at Baylor have meant everything to me. I have had mentors pour into me at my darkest times and I have been able to see other teammates grow in the pursuit of their own faith. I am so grateful for this program and the environment we have.” Kara says those relationships have helped remind her of what is most important and keep her priorities in order. “Faith is my number one influence in volleyball. At Baylor we always talk about our why. I play volleyball because I know God has given me this gift for a reason and I want to be a good steward of it to honor Him. I love that volleyball is where God has placed me because it has given me so many opportunities to share the Gospel and pour into all kinds of people.”
Middle blocker Andressa Parise reflects those same words herself. Growing up in Brazil, it took time to get used to life in the United States. But since joining Baylor after transferring from St. Petersburg College in Florida, she says her faith has continued to grow more than ever. “Volleyball allowed me to attend an excellent Christian school and gave me people who not only want me to succeed on the court, but also in life. They do it in a Christ-like way and I can feel the Lord taking care of each step I take even with all my flaws. He’s always been there and I know that.” Being around those people have helped remind her to remain grateful even in the midst of life’s uncertainties. “Volleyball is an integral part of my faith. I wouldn´t have made it this far in volleyball if it weren`t for my faith, the same way that volleyball makes my faith so much stronger.”
Senior outside hitter Lauren Harrison says her time at Baylor has grown her faith in unimaginable ways. She expresses that in the midst of setbacks or hurdles, her faith is what pushes her through. “As student-athletes we are expected to perform and practice at a high level while also balancing school and life. My faith keeps me grounded. It has helped me realize that through the ups and downs God has placed me here for a reason, and he’s only preparing me for something great!” She says that mindset helps remind her of who she is playing for too. “Ultimately, I play for an audience of 1. He’s a God who will love me the same no matter how I play on the court and that is very comforting to know.”
Baylor sophomore Campbell Bowden reflects those same words too, saying faith is the driving force for who she is. An important part of her life growing up, she says her time at Baylor has only strengthened and reinforced that for her. “My volleyball career influenced my faith because I have been given a platform and want to glorify the Lord in all I do.” That includes trusting in His plan even in the midst of life’s challenges. “Sometimes the only way to get through a season of life is to cling to Jesus. And I am thankful that even when I am so far away He is still in constant pursuit of me.”
The faith of the Baylor team also plays a key role in drawing recruits and young stars to join the Baylor family. For class of 2022 commit Averi Carlson, it was a key factor in making her choice. A star on the court and named 2019 PrepVolleyball High School Sophomore of the Year, faith plays a key role in Averi’s life. She says, “I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to school and had several offers, but when I went to a volleyball camp at Baylor, I fell in love with the atmosphere. They all play for something bigger than themselves and I wanted to be part of that! It is such an amazing program where faith is at the core of everything they do.” As Averi prepares for her senior year of high school before coming to Baylor, she is looking forward to joining the Bears and the opportunity to continue playing for something greater than herself. “The culture and family feel at Baylor was something that I wanted to be a part of. It shouted to my heart that this is where I needed to be. Everything they stand for is what is so appealing to me. I feel so lucky that I am going to be a part of that culture and program. What an honor to be able to represent such an amazing and God-centered program.”
In the midst of wins and losses, the Baylor volleyball team is strengthened and bonded together by their faith. Although they face uncertainties and hurdles along the way, they are supported by a system of encouragement and love that reminds them of the reason they are playing the game. Each step on the court is an opportunity to showcase that faith and love for whoever is watching.