The fifth-seeded Baylor volleyball team advanced to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 after knocking off Washington State, 27-25, 25-21, 25-20, on Friday night at the Ferrell Center.
That gave the Bears (22-5) a pair of home sweeps to open up the NCAA tournament. The team is on a nine-match winning streak, including six straight sweeps over opponents.
Baylor will await the winner of 12th-seeded Minnesota and Stanford, who play Saturday, in next week’s Sweet 16. The Bears are likely headed to Madison, Wis., for the next two rounds, assuming the Badgers aren’t upset.
Baylor’s duo of senior outside hitters, Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner, led the way for the Bears in routinely powerful fashion. Skinner finished with 17 kills and Pressley added 16 of her own. Senior setter Hannah Sedwick totaled 45 assists, six digs, and four blocks on the night.
Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said being able to rely on the heavy hitting of Skinner and Pressley has been a blessing for him and the team.
“It’s awesome, I’m just trying not to mess it up,” McGuyre said. “Phenomenal athletes. Avery carried so much of the passing tonight, too … her ability to pass then hit is really significant. You know, she’s really good at it for one. That separates her from other outsides (hitters) to be able to gather herself and have great footwork and connection with Hannah in order to do that.”
Each set was close, but the Bears managed to win in straight sets. Baylor’s offense clicked early on, as five different players recorded kills in the first 10 points of the match. Despite this, the Cougars were able to capitalize on multiple Baylor mistakes to keep themselves in the set. Washington State got all the way to set point, but the Bears’ late 5-1 run helped them take the first set, 27-25.
In the second set Baylor came out of the gates hot, taking an early 6-2 lead. The Cougars would battle back to tie the set at seven. The set was back-and-forth until mid set where Baylor took control after a 4-1 run to take a 15-12 lead. Skinner came alive with multiple kills, an ace and a block down the stretch. Skinner’s spark carried the Bears to set point, where she delivered the final blow.
McGuyre said it was obvious to him that Baylor’s level of play was higher than in the team’s opening NCAA win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He wants the team to continue to execute at a high level.
“You could just tell,” McGuyre said. “We’ve had experience playing all these back-to-back games and the better team wins night two. Last night we were discouraged but you know, we talked about it, we still didn’t panic … There’s a healthy trust and a healthy belief, good composure within this group and we want to keep getting better and make sure we execute still on a higher level.”
There were 13 ties and seven lead changes in the third set. Pressley ignited Baylor’s final winning push. She recorded eight kills in this set alone, including a stretch of five straight kills. Her performance, combined with Skinner’s effort, propelled Baylor to a 25-20 set win, completing the sweep.
“Yossi jumps high and hits hard,” McGuyre jokingly said. “It’s really fun and there were moments where I got to relive great moments in my playing days through her tonight. Watching her do some great, great things. I’m very proud of our whole team.”
Pressley praised McGuyre and Sedwick for consistently putting herself and the team in the right positions to perform at a high level.
“Kudos to Hannah just for setting up a great office and getting me some one-on-one looks,” Pressley said. “Also to Coach Mac, for talking to me whenever I was hitting outside. He gave me feedback and I was like, ‘Oh, thanks, that was easy.’ It shows how great they are and how well they see the board.”