Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Transferring can be difficult for any student, as friends and familiarity are left behind for the unknowns of a new campus and a new start to college life.
The level of uncertainty can be even greater for a student-athlete, but Baylor volleyball player Elizabeth Graham has made the transition look easy.
"From the start, the team was just really friendly, so that made it easy to come to school and already have that network of friends from the get-go," Graham said.
The 6-foot-2-inch middle blocker left the University of Texas in 2008, after playing a total of 12 matches in two seasons. Last year in her first season at Baylor, Graham played in 30 matches and helped the Bears to their most successful season in program history.
"I really liked Baylor's small school, family atmosphere and the campus," she said. "I liked that the volleyball program was still growing and that I would be able to help in that aspect."
Today the senior is an integral part of a Baylor squad that is looking to build upon the success of last year's team. Through 23 matches, the Bears have posted a 12-11 mark, while Graham leads the team in blocks and is second in kills.
"She has been our top player, hands down, not only in matches, but every day in practice," coach Jim Barnes said. "There is never a doubt about Liz. She shows up and puts up the numbers every day. She has done nothing but make our program better."
Graham's dream was to play college basketball. From the time she laced up her sneakers to start playing organized hoops in the second grade to her senior year at Vista Ridge (Texas) High School, Graham saw her future on the hardwood. However, she also excelled on the volleyball court. Her high school volleyball coach, Kim Fuller, pushed her to pursue a volleyball scholarship.
"Coach Fuller understood my want to play basketball in college at that time, but at the same time she tried to keep my eyes open for volleyball too, because she saw a lot of potential from me," Graham said.
After leading Vista Ridge to the state 4A championship match in 2006 and being honored as an All-State selection, Graham chose to stay close to home and play for Texas. Now, three years later, the Leander, Texas, product, has become a force 90 miles north of Austin in Waco.
Graham is ranked second in the Big 12 and 13th nationally in blocks per set to help the Bears rank as the fourth-best team in the conference and the 45th best team nationally in that category.
The secret to much of Graham's success this season is a decision by Barnes to switch offensive schemes. Baylor utilizes two setters to take advantage of its athletic middle blockers in Graham and sophomore Torri Campbell.
"We have always loved to feed the ball to our middles and in this scheme we can do it more," Barnes said. "Liz has stepped right in Anna Breyfogle's role. The combination of her instincts and getting the technique that Anna had really has made her an exceptional blocker this year."
Breyfogle was one of three seniors who graduated from last year's team, leaving a leadership hole that Campbell says has been filled by Graham.
"She has definitely taken the role of what Anna was to me," Campbell said. "I feel like I do watch her and try to play like her. She has definitely made me a better hitter, because she is that great of blocker. She is amazing competition to have in practice."
After posting a 5-7 record so far in Big 12 play, the Bears have eight more conference matches as they look to bolster their NCAA tournament resume. Graham will certainly be a large part of the Bears' stretch run as she continues to settle into her role.
"Every match, every game she has picked it up a little more," Barnes said. "She has had a great season and I think she is going to have an even greater one in the second half."