Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Reporter, Story by Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Not every win is pretty. This was the case for Baylor volleyball’s match against LSU wednesday night at the Ferrell Center. The Bears were out-blocked 14-5 and only hit 186 on their attacks, but managed to pull out a four-set victory over the visiting Tigers, 25-17, 23-25, 25-14, 26-24.
Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said that regardless of whether the team was tired from its 11-day road trip, they need to be sharper as they get closer to Big 12 play.
“We have to be better to be honest. We played like we had some jet lag out there at times, not crisp. We have to get our pins hitting at a much higher rate. Too many missed connections,” McGuyre said. “LSU is a really good team, but I thought we did an OK job defensively, digging them, but we needed to better lining them up and slowing them down with our block at the net. I thought we limited them in what they were trying to do offensively, but other than Shelly [Fanning] offensively, we were a little anemic.”
Trailing 11-5 in the fourth set, a disputed call at the net may have been the turning point for the Bears.
Redshirt senior middle hitter Tola Itiola appeared to have a clean kill at the net, but the point was awarded to LSU after the referees decided that Itiola’s foot was over the line when she made contact with the ball, resulting in the foul.
McGuyre saw the play a different way, and earned a yellow card from the official for his protest. Regardless of the call, he said he was determined to battle just as hard as the team.
“If that helped us, I’ll take credit for it,” McGuyre said. “I wanted to make sure I was in the moment with the girls and fight for everything tonight, but we have to be sharper.”
After the call, Baylor continued to chip away at the LSU lead, tying at 17. From that point on, the two teams exchanged points, tying four different times, the last of which was at 24-24.
With LSU serving, a clean pass from senior libero Jana Brusek to freshman setter Hannah Lockin set up the go-ahead kill from junior outside hitter Aniah Philo. Redshirt senior outside hitter Katie Staiger then drilled a ball that the Tigers couldn’t handle to close the set with the 26-24 victory.
Staiger led the way with 15 kills as she moved into fifth on Baylor’s all-time kills list, surpassing Tisha Schwartz. Staiger now has 1,512 kills for her career.
Staiger said she had been eyeing the record and it was an even better experience being able to do it at the Ferrell Center.
“That’s awesome,” Staiger said. “I came into this season trying to break some of these records and make some history and it’s cool to be able to do that at home.”
LSU, who suffered its second loss of the season, gave Baylor fits from the opening serve.
In the first game, the Tigers kept it close most of the way, cutting the Bears’ lead to 16-14 and forcing a timeout. From that point forward, Baylor found its rhythm offensively.
Philo and freshman outside hitter Yossiana Pressley connected on four consecutive kills, pushing the lead to 20-15 and drawing another timeout from LSU. Following two service errors from the Tigers, Pressley and Staiger completed a 25-17 first set win.
The Bears hit 32 percent as a team as Pressley finished with six kills in the set.
The second set belonged to the Tigers as LSU found holes in the Baylor defense for easy points. Although LSU played better in the second, it wasn’t all the Tigers offense that was the problem. The Bears made uncharacteristic mistakes, including several attack errors as the result of poor sets.
LSU also found the gaps in the defense and left the Bears searching for answers defensively. Baylor did not quit, cutting the lead from 24-20 to 24-23 in part to some timely attack winners from Staiger. However, another error from the Bears helped LSU take the second set 25-23.
In the third game, the Bears got off to another slow start, but gained a 15-12 lead and began to roll.
An ace from the Bears followed by consecutive kills and an LSU error gave Baylor a 19-12 advantage. A 6-2 run down the stretch, capped off by a kill from redshirt sophomore middle hitter Shelly Fanning gave the Bears the set 25-14.
Fanning, who finished with 13 kills, said that it is her teammates that encourage her and give her the confidence to make the big plays at the end of the set.
“It means a lot that they trust me to put it away,” Fanning said. “I think that I have a lot more that I need to work on but it’s cool to be the one that they rely on to put away.”
Philo and Brusek led the defense for Baylor, tallying 21 digs each while Staiger added 13.
Baylor (7-3) will host Texas State at 6 p.m. today as part of the Jason’s Deli Baylor Classic. The Bears will then take on St. John’s at 11 a.m. Saturday and the University of Texas-San Antonio at 7 p.m. that night.